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Developmental Networks: The Basics

We tend to have a variety of networks that serve various purposes. From growing our businesses to growing ourselves. From gaining a new skill to gaining visibility in the marketplace.

A developmental network is a special type of network defined as “a set of relationships an individual has with people who take an active interest in and action to advance the individual’s career by assisting with his or her personal and professional development.” (David A. Thomas and Monica Higgins) 

More simply put, it’s the people who help us learn. The people we turn to and rely on for input, advice and ideas to help us along the way.

Often times, our support networks happen by chance rather than design. Yet, these relationships can make such a difference to our peace of mind from having a sounding board, for problem solving, for figuring out how to get the job done and advancing our business or career. Mentors, coaches, sponsors, advisors, role models and elders are some of the roles these people play. The more diverse the people in your network, the greater the range of resources you have to call upon.

The best developmental networks are diverse across three dimensions:

  1. Function: a variety of industries; breadth of knowledge such as finance, marketing, franchising etc.
  2. Position:  In addition to people at more senior levels with more experience, also your peers and those junior to you and with less experience
  3. Demographics: Gender, generation, race/ethnicity, geographic region, etc.

You might refer to your developmental network as a personal board of directors or advisors, a wisdom council, a constellation or a sanity circle. Whatever term you prefer, take the time to reflect on who is on your team. Who are the people that you can turn to and rely on? How diverse are your members? What roles are present? Missing? What input would be especially helpful for your next project or promotion? Be intentional in creating a developmental network that will be there when you need it. And how can you be there for others?

What name do you use for your developmental network? Please share your experiences  below.

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