Could networking outside of your comfort zone boost business culture?

 As leaders we have an opportunity to stand up for something bigger than just our own industry or innovations, explains Chris Sheppardson

It’s human nature to base what we know on past experience and knowledge, but as a result we often make assumptions and decisions in a rather one-dimensional way, based on what we think we know, rather than what might be. Whether intentional or not, these narrowed ways of thinking as we sit comfortable inside our box mean we could be missing out on a great opportunity.

Sometimes this closed approach means we also close potential doors, which could provide new insight not to mention foster new relationships. Networking is a good example of this because in most cases, we network with people in our own industry or target market – we seldom think to step outside of this community.

Meeting with peers and new contacts is no great revelation; people have been networking since the dawn of time in one way or another. We are also acutely aware that building strong relationships with people cannot be underestimated in business. In many cases it is the founding stone for the success of many organisations today. Yet we find ourselves stuck in a rut where lack of trust in leadership is becoming the norm, as is the spiralling demise of team spirit and workplace culture.

Take a diversion
Most businesses today simply focus on pushing people to their limits (regardless of the cost or impact on their wellbeing) and the rising number of people suffering with many forms of mental illness is evidence in itself.

The question is, are the more traditional structures for networking and developing relationships actually working for today? Is a change in mind set needed to break down those barriers that may be stopping us form exploring new paths? Rather than going down the same road each time, should we take a diversion and look at the idea of networking outside of our comfort zone? There is an argument to suggest that given the state of business cultures in general today, we should be taking inspiration, and knowledge from people across all different industries, all levels of seniority and regardless of our target audience?

There is a great deal of new talent and leadership breaking through today from the younger generations and many businesses can learn from these individuals. We also need to start paving the way for future leaders in order to give them a stronger voice.

Broaden mental agility
Networking in new places and with new people means not only do we open up other channels of discovery we may also be able to learn and apply those learnings to our own businesses and situations. But if that is really going to happen we need to break down some of the barriers that exist if we want to broaden our mental agility and set about creating positive change.

Stepping outside of your usual networking circles can be daunting; it’s like arriving at a party alone and not knowing anyone else in the room. But you have a choice, spend the evening alone or take the plunge and speak to someone. But having the courage and the desire to network and build business relationships across any industry will in time, bridge the gap that does exist today. If we think about the potential scope for learning today, the truth is most of it is on our doorstep but we have to look past the end of our nose to find it. If not, we are arguably missing out on a wealth of expertise that could shape businesses of the future.

Whether you are a plumber, a technical entrepreneur or city banker, sharing knowledge with people you don’t usually come into contact with can be extremely powerful and exciting. Everyone brings something different to the table, new thought processes, approaches and ideas that others can adapt to and learn from.

Standing up for something bigger
If we start to broaden our minds, there really is a wealth of knowledge to tap into. There is also the element of belonging and community too. For many leaders and entrepreneurs particularly, it can be lonely at the top. Most of us would agree that we tend to push ourselves further when we feel valued or part of something bigger. As humans we are tribal by nature, we like belonging and we also see value in building meaningful relationships whether in life or business – it’s a massive part of our culture.

The concept of building multiple industry relationships is that more open minds result in greater opportunities to learn, better teams and in turn, better leaders. As leaders we have an opportunity to stand up for something bigger than just our own industry or innovations – a responsibility for people in the community and society in general; networking outside of our comfort zones is a good place to start.


Chris Sheppardson, CEO at EP Business in Hospitality (www.epinsights.co.uk). EP is a leading communicator in business thinking and opinion with a focus on shared knowledge and connectivity across the hospitality industry. Bringing likeminded communities together, EP provides a central resource for the discussion and debate of key issues affecting businesses today. With an intention to facilitate and advise, EP also creates live face-to-face events, bridging the communication gap between organisations and their prospective audiences.

Working with hundreds of entrepreneurs, EP also provides consultancy and advisory services, professional communications and entrepreneurial development while publishing a range of printed magazines, books, reports and digital content.