Wednesday, March 03, 2010

What is the difference between 'Networking' and 'Teamwork'?

During a workshop for employees of a property development company yesterday I outlined my definition of networking:

"Networking is the collaboration with others to enhance our potential beyond that which we could achieve on our own." 
One of the delegates on the workshop asked me, "Isn't that the same as teamwork? What is the difference between networking and teamwork?"
It's an interesting question. Whenever I speak to employees of larger companies there is as much focus on networking internally to get their job done effectively as there is on networking externally for business development. Improving such internal communications and breaking down silos is a consistent problem for many organisations and team building measures such as away days have been used for years to address the problem. 
In response, I explained that teamwork and networking are closely related. Indeed, networking between members of a team is essential for it to successfully pursue its objectives.

The key difference lies in those objectives though. Whereas teamwork is essential for a group of people to achieve a common objective, networking is about helping each other despite our objectives often being unrelated. 
When I have an issue, a challenge or need a contact I know I can turn to my network for support despite the fact that offering that support may temporarily divert them from pursuing their own goals. They are happy to do so, however, because they know that I, and others, would be more than happy to help them in return when needed. 

Perhaps there is too much focus on 'teamwork' within organisations at the expense of networking. By narrowing the goal to getting teams working together many organisations lack effective communication and collaboration between different departments, all pursuing their own independent goals. 
When I was involved with business breakfast meetings we would see lawyers from large firms of solicitors only ever talk  about their area of interest, employment law for example, and never talk about the work of the firm as a whole. Working with retail banks I found that there was little cross-referral activity between different areas of the bank, such as personal banking, small business and commercial. 

Of course, ultimately they all have the same objective, the success of the business. But do they realise that and do they feel part of the same team?


  1. This blog is good to read. You have explained correctly the meaning of business networking and teamwork. You have differentiated the two words very well. Although networking and teamwork are slightly the same but there is a big functionality in the business industries. Networking is about helping or sharing knowledge to each other and teamwork is necessary for a group of people to accomplish the same objective in business. But I’d rather choose networking as a strategy to fulfill the goal of our business because it is a powerful marketing method to achieve and sustain professional success. Networking is a lifestyle for everyone especially when we want to have our business become more successful; it's about building the right set of relationships that make us an insider, not an outsider. It’s an exchange of information, contacts and referrals. Thanks for sharing your wonderful ideas about teamwork and networking. I’ve learned a lot in your blog.

    Clwyd Probert @ Business Networking in London

  2. Thank you Clwyd,

    I think networking has more sustainability as it's more than just project focused. Rather than being aimed towards one goal, it's for the benefit for all over the long-term.