developmental networking


Developmental networking is something most people, especially women, don’t consciously think about in the workplace. Sure, we all know how important networks are, but women in particular are prone to expecting their work to speak for itself and view certain types of networking as “”playing the game.” If this is you, you’re going to love what Dr. Rosina Racioppi has to say about it. She has life changing advice on how to establish and leverage relationships at work without feeling like you’re selling out.

What You’ll Discover About Developmental Networking (highlights and transcript):

  • developmental networkingThe purpose of developmental networking. [2:38]
  • Why developmental networking isn’t “selling out.” [11:50]
  • How to build your network and still be authentic. [14:00]
  • How to choose the right people to be part of your network. [4:53]
  • How your networking needs change as you progress in your career. [14:55]
  • Simple questions to ask to get the feedback you need to grow professionally. [10:20]
  • And much more.

Hanna Hasl-Kelchner: [00:00:01] Developmental networks are something most people, especially women, don’t consciously think about in the workplace. Sure, we all know about the importance of network, but lots of women expect their work to speak for itself and view certain types of networking as playing the game. Now, if this is you, you’re going to love my next guest. When we come back, she’s going to give us some advice on how to establish and leverage relationships at work without feeling like you’re selling out.


Announcer: [00:00:36] This is Business Confidential Now with Hanna Hasl-Kelchner giving you the inside scoop on how to ignite more business success by doing the right things in the right way.


Hanna: [00:00:52] Welcome to Business Confidential Now. I’m your host, Hanna Hasl-Kelchner. And today I’m honored to have with us the author of the book Relationships Matter: How Women Use Developmental Relationships to Step into Power and Influence. She’s Dr. Rosina Racioppi, the president and chief executive officer of Women Unlimited Inc, where she spearheads her organization’s initiatives to help Fortune 1000 companies cultivate the talent they need for ongoing growth and profitability. Under her leadership, Women Unlimited successfully partners with organizations across a wide range of industries to develop their high potential women and to build a pipeline of diverse and talented leaders with over 25 years of executive experience in organizational planning and development, compensation and benefits, training and development, safety, quality management, staffing and employee relations at organizations such as Degussa Corporation, NextTran, which is a division of Baxter Corporation, and Beachwood Data Systems, plus a doctorate in education from the University of Pennsylvania. Rosina is singularly qualified to understand the needs of her partner organizations, and it’s also a singular pleasure to have her join us today. Welcome to Business Confidential Now, Rosina.


Rosina Racioppi: [00:02:19] Oh, thank you so much, Hanna. I’m looking forward to our conversation.


What is developmental networking?


Hanna: [00:02:22] Me too, because I am dying to learn more about developmental networks and what you mean by that term. I mean, it almost sounds, I’ve got to be a little snarky here, like some kind of special needs program. So help me out. What are developmental networks?


Rosina: [00:02:38] Well, if you think about the people, you know, the people that in your professional circle that help you learn and grow, that’s what developmental networks are. Right. They can be just sometimes referred to as your board of directors. Who are those people that help you think through an approach to a problem, think beyond your own limitations? Right. No matter how smart we are, we still have a limited point of view. So I may reach out to you just because I know you’re going to see this situation that I’m confronted with in a different way so you can help me see it differently. That helps me learn and grow.


Hanna: [00:03:18] So how do you find the right people for this developmental network?


Rosina: [00:03:22] Oh, it’s such an interesting question. So what most people will do is they’ll go to people that they’re comfortable with. And while that’s smart, right? Because I’m comfortable with you. I know you. I trust you. I’m going to come to you and chat with you about my issue. And while that’s a good first step, it’s also somewhat dangerous, right? If I go to people that are in the same field as me, in the same, maybe, department that I work in, we’re going to look at things the same in a similar fashion. That’s really not helping me expand my point of view.


Rosina: [00:04:00] So sometimes I will encourage people go to those people that when you’re in a meeting and they talk, oh, man, that maybe they rub you the wrong way, you really have a different point of view than that person. That person is challenging you. That’s the perfect person to talk to because they’re going to help stretch your thinking, maybe pull your perspective in a way that’s uncomfortable. But it’s so important for us because oftentimes if we just keep our own limited view, we’re not going to grow. So you want to find people in a different function, in a different area, a different industry that can help you look at things in a different way, and that really helps you then grow well beyond what you could do on your own.


Finding the right people for developmental networking


Hanna: [00:04:53] Well, that makes a lot of sense. But, you know, here comes the big BUT. How can you trust somebody? Let’s say I go to somebody I met in a meeting and we’ve had a disagreement, you know, we have different perspective, different points of view. And then I go to them afterwards and ask help me understand where you’re coming from. And they’re like, it’s simple. You’re wrong.


Rosina: [00:05:16] Right. There are people that maybe are not worthy of your — if they’re not going to engage in a respectful way and in a judgmental way, maybe they’re not good partners for you. But most people I have found will take time to explain their point of view. Again, we we’re not here to judge. We just want to seek to understand your point of view. It’s not judging it. It’s not putting a qualification of good or bad. It’s really another point of view for you to understand and put that in your, I’m going to say your bag of tricks, your toolbox as you look to grow your influence in your organization. Right?


Rosina: [00:06:03] You need to understand how other people approach things. Their view of the organization, their view of problems, helps you be better prepared to influence people who have dramatically different points of view than yours. And I think we get in trouble when we judge things as good and bad. Right? So if this person you approach just is dismissive, well, that’s not a really good person for you to try and pursue and create a developmental relationship with because they’re not open to that. And there’s plenty of other people that you can approach. So, again, seek people who are willing to exchange ideas and explain their point of view so that you understand it.


Rosina: [00:06:49] But be careful not to judge it because oftentimes we can get righteous about our point of view, like I’m right and the rest of the world is wrong. We have enough of that going around. We need to just seek to understand and that’s more than sufficient as we think about developmental networks.


Hanna: [00:07:10] What should somebody be looking for about whether or not they can trust someone to be in their developmental network? Because, yeah, they’ll have a different point of view. But isn’t it something more that we’re looking for in a developmental network rather than just gathering information and points of view? Aren’t we looking for some feedback about how we can do more or be more?


Rosina: [00:07:33] Absolutely. So there’s different levels of people that you have in your developmental network, right? So there’s your network. Right. And I would say those are those affiliations and relationships that keep us informed about our business and industry. Right. So as we grow our career, we need to understand how our functional expertise fits into how your industry, your company delivers value to your customer. And so you need to have a very diverse group of people, diverse meaning functions. You know, every there, as different as they can be from you, right? So to just round out your point of view so that you can be prepared for the future of your career. You know, what steps can you take? What are those opportunities? That’s an informational network, so to speak.


Rosina: [00:08:34] And then there are what I would call your growth relationships, people that over time you have found that they give you a valued perspective on how you’re showing up. The feedback piece that you’re talking about, Hanna. And what I think is so interesting is that many women and this is the work that we do. Right. Oftentimes don’t get that feedback that’s so crucial as we’re growing our careers in organizations because either they’re not asking or they’re not hearing it the way that it’s being delivered. It’s kind of delivered in an awkward or, you know, incoherent way. And so I do think it’s important for every individual to develop the skill of asking very specific questions of trusted advisers so that they get the feedback that’s so critical.


Hanna: [00:09:36] So how do you find these trusted advisers?


Rosina: [00:09:38] Well, you start with, maybe you do a presentation at work, you deliver a report to a senior leader. You need to go back to that person and ask them for their thoughts on the work that you did. I would love to understand. You can ask, what’s the one or two things that resonated with you about the work that I just did? And what’s one thing I can do differently in projects like this moving forward that would increase the value to our customer or to senior leaders? The this is feedback, right? It’s not about saying can I have some feedback? Because who knows what you’ll get with that type of question.


Simple questions to ask to get the feedback you need to grow professionally


Rosina: [00:10:20] But when you ask a very specific question on a very specific activity that’s valuable, it can reaffirm some things that you’re thinking about, the strengths that you bring to your organization. It can highlight some things you can do differently moving forward. And by asking those questions of individuals, it plants the seed of trust. You know, do I value the responses that I’m getting? How comfortable was this person in giving me this feedback? So it’s a bit of a test and learn approach to start creating these relationships that over time can be those valued, trusted advisers.


Hanna: [00:11:03] I love the way you phrased those questions because it’s also a way of saying, hey, how can what I do provide more value for you? Everybody wants to know what’s in it for me. So the person hearing that is going to be like, yeah, here’s what you can do. This is what I need. And, you know, it’s mutually reinforcing here. So I really love that suggestion and that advice.


Hanna: [00:11:27] Let me ask you something. You know, we started off talking about how developmental networks is something that some women are just really uncomfortable with. In your experience, is that a generational thing? Is it harder for women of color? You know, let’s talk a little bit about why we kind of get in our own way on this.


Why developmental networking isn’t selling out


Rosina: [00:11:50] Well, you know, I do think in general that women tend to believe once they start their career, that they can approach their work the same way they approach their studies. Right. So they’re just going to go in and get an A every single time. And it’s interesting, Hanna, because when I did my research on how women leverage mentoring relationships to advance their career and grow as leaders, every single person that participated in my research talked about how they liked being independent. They can get a lot done on their own. And that mindset can be limiting for women.


Rosina: [00:12:33] Right? We’re so good on our own. We don’t really need anybody else. And then we couple that with the fact that women, and I believe you said this at the beginning of our conversation, we don’t like to play the game. You know, we just want to show up, deliver our wonderful expertise, and we don’t want to engage in, you know, all this other stuff. The fact of the matter is that organizations have rules for the way things get done. I’m not talking about policies and procedures. I’m talking about how do people get to agreement? How do how do individuals disagree? How do we come to solutions on how we’re going to approach? How do we pick and create the strategies for our business?


Rosina: [00:13:23] Those are the rules of engagement. And as women, if we say, you know, I don’t want to play, consider this, when you got the job, when you joined your firm, you joined the team, you got the shirt. By you saying that you don’t want to play the game, it’s the same as sitting in the middle of the field while the game is going on around you. You are in the way. So you need to determine how can I learn these rules and play them to my advantage, to my organization’s advantage. You got to play the game.


Developmental networking and being authentic


Hanna: [00:14:00] Well, let’s explore this game a little bit more, and maybe we ought to put that word game aside, but because I think some people feel that it’s like an old boys’ network, you know, and the glass ceiling and all the baggage that comes with it. So, I mean, there’s the – and it goes back to what you said about the relationship piece – how to do that in a way that doesn’t sound or feel like you’re being inauthentic or flattering someone that you’re like, oh, you know, just stick your finger down your throat kind of thing. Tell me more about how to set aside this “it’s a game mentality” and get onboard the concept that now this is a legitimate thing. Like you said, you are in the t-shirt. So now you’re going to wear it. You wear it proudly. How do we do that?


Rosina: [00:14:55] I think there’s a couple of pieces to that, I think authenticity. I often hear from women as an excuse not to be different. Right. And we know that authenticity has nothing to do with values on who we are as individuals and the way that we are authentic in delivering our expertise to our organization shifts over time as we move into different levels of our career. Right.


Rosina: [00:15:26] And so being authentic means that I am aligned with how I create impact for myself and my organization in an effective way. Right. And so as I am moving into more senior level positions and this is what’s difficult for us as women, I need to be able to convey and create alignment around my ideas. And when we talk about playing the game, it’s, you know, how am I reaching out to other people to understand their point of view so that I can understand how do I shape my presentation so that they can hear it. Right. How do I flex my communication style in a way that lands on people, not crash lands them, right? But it lands on them in a way that engages them and doesn’t make them feel that I’m judging them.


Rosina: [00:16:31] So when we say play the game, it’s really about self-management. Right. And I think this is the part that often gets confusing. I need to be mindful of my tone, mindful of how I’m shaping the story and conveying the message that I’m looking to put forward to create impact in the organization.


Being more strategic through developmental networking


Rosina: [00:17:01] Some people will say, well, that’s manipulative. I think it’s strategic, right. I want to be effective. I want to be effective. And if I want to be effective with you and I know, gee, you know, Hanna is really detail oriented. So she’s going to want to know that I have these kinds of things buttoned down. I’m going to make certain that I shape the story so that, you know, those details are taken care of. Someone else may want it a little bit differently. So I want to make sure I’m meeting you where it would be most effective for us to come to a resolution and move things forward.


Hanna: [00:17:36] What you’re talking about, if I’m understanding you correctly, is communication styles.


Rosina: [00:17:42] Yes, it’s communication style, it’s also influencing, right, but it’s all our words are what shapes our impact, right? Our words are what shape your perception of us. Right. So I need to be mindful. And I think, you know, I know early in my career, I never really thought about that. I thought, well, you know, I just need to talk, you know, convey my ideas. And I had early in my career gotten a lot of feedback that my communication style, you know, I needed to be more mindful of it. And I just thought, well, you just don’t know me. I’m really effective. And once you get to know me, it’ll be fine.


Rosina: [00:18:26] I really wasn’t understanding that my very direct style could be a barrier for people to hear what I was truly trying to convey. And it took me a while of getting that kind of feedback and actually being in a meeting with a colleague of mine who basically said to me, Rosina, I really like working with you, but I don’t think I would follow you out of the foxhole. It’s when that gentleman said that to me, it hit me like, well, what am I doing? And he said, Well, you don’t really ask a lot of questions. You just are constantly telling people what you think. I’m like, huh? You’re right. That’s exactly what I do. And at a certain point in your career, it’s I’m not telling people information, I’m trying to gather, align, and create alignment around my ideas.


Rosina: [00:19:21] Telling people what to do is only causing me to drag them up the hill. It’s a lot more effort. So I needed to shift my communication style and listen more as asked very specific questions so that I can get a sense of where people were thinking, you know what, maybe what some of their objections might be, so that I could be more effective. So I truly – it is about communication – but it’s maybe it’s a little bit more than that. It’s also being more aware of how you manage situations to move things forward.


Role of access in developmental networking


Hanna: [00:19:56] What about the access piece, because I think part of this network and being authentic stumbling block, if you will, this roadblock or speed bump at least that some people have, has to do with well, let’s see, they play golf. I don’t play golf. They like to go out for drinks after work. I want to go home and take care of the kids, you know, that type of thing. So I appreciate what you’re saying about communication and doing it in a way that really gets through to the people you’re trying to reach and the use of questions and being curious. But what about this access piece?


Rosina: [00:20:38] Well, you know, it’s interesting. One of the things we do in our programs, the women that attend our development programs, is we ask them early on to go out and meet with senior leaders in their organization. And we do it for a number of reasons to help them gain a broader understanding of the business objectives, to have them get exposure to senior leaders. And we push them to go outside their comfort zone, not just go a level above, but try and go to more senior leadership.


Rosina: [00:21:12] And what’s fascinating is that at first the women are really hesitant. It’s like, well, they’re not going to want to meet with me. You know, they’re busy people. You know, they certainly are not going to want to take the time to meet with me. And then they’re surprised that the senior leaders will not only put time on their calendar, but oftentimes the conversations go beyond the initial 30 minutes.


Rosina: [00:21:40] Why is that? Well, the senior leaders want to understand what these talented women are thinking. So they’re happy to answer these questions. They also realize how important it is for them as senior leaders to understand what individuals that are maybe several levels below them are thinking as well. So when people say, what about access, you have nothing to lose.


Rosina: [00:22:07] When you ask people, can I just meet with you? I’d like to understand a little bit more about your area. Or if someone just joined the company, what did you do before you joined the organization? It’s really just, you know, reaching out and asking someone for their time. And I have found throughout my career that most people, even if you do it in an informal way, will take the time to have that conversation with you. And it’s really looking for those individuals that are receptive to having that conversation.


Rosina: [00:22:44] Then you can build on that by saying, who else do you think it would be helpful for me to meet with? You know, I really want to make sure that I can fill in the blank, have a broader understanding of our business, understand our strategy, whatever it is that for you at this point in your career that you’re interested in. Just ask, I would say more times than not, you’ll get a positive response, and if you do get a dud in there every once in a while, don’t let that deter you because it is important to have a robust network for your career.


Rosina’s book


Hanna: [00:23:21] I love all these insights. Thank you. You’ve written a book called Relationships Matter How Women Use Developmental Relationships to Step into Power and Influence. What inspired you to write that?


Rosina: [00:23:34] Oh, you know, I’m so glad you asked about it, Hanna. As I mentioned, I had done my research on how women use mentors to advance their career and move into senior leadership roles. And I’ve always been fascinated on the role of how mentors influence, how we create these relationships that support our career, not just mentors, but sponsors, networks, all of these different pieces. So as I’ve been thinking about it, I wanted to expand to what are those relationships that people think about as they’re growing their careers. And so I took my initial research as a foundation, and then I reached out to 10 business leaders that I know, some very senior CEOs of businesses, some mid-career, and asked them to share their stories with us.


Rosina: [00:24:36] In the book, you’ll hear from a woman that was head of Open Business at American Express and her journey from when she first started in that organization to when she moved into her C-level role. There’s another woman that as shares stories about her career as in business with a large Fortune 50 organization, a gentleman who was the CEO of the Chicago Tribune and had gone through mergers and acquisitions.


Rosina: [00:25:11] So there’s a lot of lessons that they imparted that builds on my research. And I think what’s so helpful is there’s no one way. Right? There isn’t like this is the roadmap to creating relationships, but it’s ideas and suggestions that hopefully people that read it can identify some ways in which they can take these lessons and apply them to their own journey. That is my hope that it gives them some tools and some insight that will help them map a course for themselves.


Hanna: [00:25:46] Well, if your book is anything like this interview, I’m sure that there’s lots of good information in there that can, if nothing else, raise people’s awareness. Like you said, there’s not a one size fits all. We’re all unique. We all have unique career paths. But that doesn’t mean there may not be some similar milestones or things that we could look out for if we know what to look for. And I think that is half the battle. Whether you decide to then take that path or not, or ask the questions, that’s a whole other question.


Hanna: [00:26:18] But at least, you know, it’s there. Half the time we’re just stumbling past it blindly and that can be to our detriment because we’re not living up to our full potential. So if you’d like to learn more about Rosina’s book, we’re going to have a link to it on the episode page at So if you’re not in a place where you can write that down right now, don’t worry, we got you covered at


A guiding principle of leadership


Hanna: [00:26:44] Now Rosina, you are truly an amazing woman to tackle this important subject and be a champion for women’s leadership development. And I know we only have a few minutes left, but I’m curious to know what factors influenced your own leadership development, because I’m sure there are many. But if there’s just one you could share with us, what would it be?


Rosina: [00:27:02] Well, you know, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that my mother’s voice, I still hear in my head, and I can tell her that she was right all the time. That at the end of the day, the only thing I can control is myself and how I respond to things. So that’s the thing that really I think I keep coming back to each time.


[00:27:24] Well, it sounds like she’s a very wise woman. Well, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. This has been great. I appreciate your time and the valuable insights you’ve shared. And for those of you who would like to learn more about Dr. Rosina Racioppi and her organization, Women Unlimited Inc, what would be the best way for them to reach out to you Rosina?


Rosina: [00:27:48] I think the best ways to go to our website, which is And you’ll find my information as well as my contact information there, too.


Hanna: [00:27:58] That’s our show for today. Thank you for joining me. If you’d like to learn more about. Today’s guest, you can go to our web site at It’s got a lot of other powerful information and resources available to help your business grow. So be sure to check that out. The website again is


Hanna: [00:28:20] I’m Hanna Hasl-Kelchner. And you’ve been listening to Business Confidential Now. Have a great rest of the day and an even better tomorrow.

Guest: Dr. Rosina Racioppi

Dr. Rosina RacioppiDr. Rosina Racioppi is the author of Relationships Matter: How Women Use Developmental Relationships to Step into Power and Influence. She is also the President and Chief Executive Officer of WOMEN Unlimited, Inc, where she spearheads her organization’s initiatives to help Fortune 1000 companies cultivate the talent they need for ongoing growth and profitability. Under her leadership WOMEN unlimited successfully partners with organizations across a wide range of industries to develop their high-potential women and to build a pipeline of diverse and talented leaders.

With over 25 years of executive level experience on organization planning and development, compensation and benefits, training and development, safety, quality management staffing and employee relations at organizations such as Degussa Corporation, Nextran (a division of Baxter Corporation) and Beechwood Data Systems, plus a doctorate in education from the University of Pennsylvania, Rosina is singularly qualified to understand the needs of her partner organizations and to speak on the topic of developmental networking.

Related Resources:

developmental networks

  Contact Rosina and connect with her on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and WOMEN Unlimited, Inc.

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