Monday, October 31, 2011

Leadership Month Blog Series (Part 13)

In recognition of Edgewood Chemical Biological Center's October Leadership Month, a special blog series featuring ECBC employee responses on what it takes to be an effective leader will be featured on the blog throughout the month of October. The final installment in this blog series features Jorge Christian, Chief of Protection Engineering Division at ECBC.

Jorge Christian
In this time of change and transformation, downsized Department of Defense (DoD) business climate, as well as shrinking budgets, networking must be looked at as a key source of information, opportunities and even power. Currently, there is a renewed effort to maintain Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) at the forefront of the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) world through the development and execution of a comprehensive strategic planning initiative. For this enterprise to be successful, among other things, ECBC leaders have to develop an entrepreneurial mindset. One of the approaches to cultivate this discipline is to become more vigilant, creative and ready to take full advantage of all opportunities available to place the organization in the best position possible to respond to the customer needs. It is here where networking must be looked as one of the essential leadership tools.
In its simplest form, networking is defined as the practice of gathering contacts. It involves the process or practice of building up and maintaining relationships. This is especially important when it relates to people whose position or needs could bring new business opportunities. Many of my colleagues wonder whether establishing relationships and networking are overrated. Do we really need them? The short answer is, yes.
Establishing, as well as nurturing internal and external relationships, has proven to be “the bread and butter” of my professional career. That required making a concerted and diligent effort to avoid living in professional or social isolation while addressing the demands of my everyday responsibilities. In other words, it involved getting out from behind my desk and moving around in a variety of circles. Why? Because you never know who will play an important role in your career or your ability to expand ECBC’s business and customer portfolio.
Many people think of networking as attending conferences, circulating around a room during the breaks and exchanging business cards. While that is a form of gaining contacts, in the absence of your personal touch, the actual rate of success in transforming them into long-lasting, mutually productive and beneficial relationships, is low. The fact is that networking is not just the number of contacts you have, but instead, it is the breadth and quality of them. It is essential that you take special care in treating the individuals you relate with, with respect; always be careful not to let networking become all about using them solely for your own gain or that of the organization. Look at each relationship as one that could yield a win-win situation. When you learn something new that excites you, and the other person learns something interesting or helpful about your or your organization, the magic of a successful networking relationship is born.  
Take the time to make and build real relationships. Be proactive in exploring how you can contribute to the solution of your new contact’s pressing problem thus helping each other out in the process. Dare to awake the hidden leader in you by taking on the challenge of using networking as a tool.
Mr. Jorge Christian currently serves as the Chief of the Protection Engineering Division for the Engineering Directorate of the U.S. Army Research Development and Engineering Command, Edgewood Chemical Biological Center.  He has over 27 years of experience in CB defense acquisition and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)joint capability support.

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