The adage, “Do what you’ve always done, get what you’ve always gotten,” applies just as much to your network as it does to every other area of your life. Network like you’ve always networked and, well, you’ll get the same results. You’ll meet the same profiles of people. And you’ll hire the same type of talent, again and again.

For many boards and investment firms, this antiquated approach creates a cycle of sameness. People tend to call on who they know and hire those who look like them. This tactic is loaded with homogeneity, going against everything we know to be true about innovation and disruption.  

This won’t work if your goal is to diversify your talent pool with diverse talent in every realm, from ethnicity to education to gender to perspective and experience. To shatter the status quo and achieve unprecedented results, businesses must not only break away from the norms but persistently work toward getting comfortable with the uncomfortable and challenging themselves to just try harder.  

4 strategies for thoughtfully expanding your network 

Get comfortable with an extended timeline for sourcing talent. 

It’s easy to pick up the phone and call someone you know or go to the same resource you’ve always leaned on. But those shortcuts are bound to yield the same types of results. If you are truly dedicated to diversifying your talent pool within your organization and/or on your board, warm up to the idea that it may take slightly longer than what you’re used to. View that extra time as an investment in sourcing the right individual.

Get in sync with your team.

Bringing someone new onto your leadership team or board is an intimate process affecting the whole organization. Ensure you have the commitment of your team in bringing on fresh, diverse talent. Getting on the same page when it comes to vision and strategy will ensure the interview, hiring, and ultimately onboarding process goes smoothly.

Integrate yourself in diverse communities. 

Get involved in new communities, organizations, and networking groups. For rising leaders especially – those on the path to the C-suite and boardroom — there is no shortage of a talent pool, especially when it comes to capable, ambitious, high-powered women leaders. They are out there in masses and are well prepared for a multitude of CxO and board positions. 

Challenge arbitrary requirements. 

Play devil’s advocate with your own job description or board director spec. Why is it you’re looking for a CEO? Would other roles that bring the operating experience you need or be a better fit? Increasingly, boards are looking like the C-suite, but with individuals representative of where the company is headed, whereas the actual C-suite represents where the company is. In this way, you have a much more diverse set of capabilities around the board table. What are the 3-5 next giant leap imperatives that you want to conquer as an organization – and what are the profiles of the leaders who have led in these areas and can guide you there? Or, better yet, ask yourself why certain candidates can’t get you there. 

Does your candidate truly need to be local, or are you willing to work remotely with the right individual (using a mix of formal meetings, in-person and virtual)? 

What I am asking you to do is to re-think, to second guess, to challenge, all the norms you’ve become so accustomed to… and to start to ask why. To begin to think bigger about what it means to be diverse and take positive steps toward change.

What we often see at Athena is that hiring organizations need to get comfortable with stepping outside of their classic descriptions of what a CEO or board director looks like. There’s no reason board directors need to be past CEOs – it’s often an arbitrary descriptor that many have accepted and gotten comfortable with over time.

Expanding your network is easier than you think

Today you can outsource almost anything – including networking. Athena makes it easy for CEOs, boards, investment firms, and just about anyone to access top female executive leaders. You’ll gain Concierge Service and suggestions on exactly who you must meet and why. Access to speakers, board talent, C-suite leaders, mentors, event attendees, you name it.

In a world where we are all operating fast, and are limited on time, joining Athena as an investor or CEO partner can be one of the most impactful investments you can make in your talent pool in 2021. Open your mind and open your door to fresh talent and new ways of thinking – your business will thank you.

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