03. 10. 2023.

You get the most value from a network when you share your doubts.

As CEO of Danish IT and former minister, Rikke Hvilshøj has extensive experience in networking. As her career has evolved, her need to network strategically has done the same. Here she shares her experiences on how to get the most out of her network.

In recent years, Rikke Hvilshøj has been part of two professional networks. The first network she has sought out and focuses on leadership. The second network, Rikke Hvilshøj itself has helped to start with a small group of industry colleagues. Together they have recruited several members with the same profile and wishes.


The profiles in my management network were very different from my own, but I just wanted to be inspired by new inputs and learn from the other members’ experiences. But I‘m actually on my way out of my first network because I want to focus my time and energy on the latest network that I’ve joined. Here the common feature is that members are very much concerned with the same thing as me. It has more focus on industry inspiration, says Rikke Hvilshøj.


Rikke Hvilshøj CEO Danish IT

The agenda is important for the new ones, because these are the relationships.

Rikke Hvilshøj visited her first network, although she did not know and here the agendas for the meetings were decisive for her choosing to prioritise the network in a busy everyday life.

Although the facilitator had put together a very interesting program, it was gradually the relationships with the other network members that had Rikke set aside time again and again for the network in an otherwise tightly packed calendar.

— Where networks really begin to add value is when you move from prioritising your time based on the program and instead prioritise the network due to the confidentiality you get with the other members and the dialogues that you may have based on it. That’s where you get the most out of your network, says Rikke Hvilshøj.

You have to give before you can enjoy.

The needs have changed throughout her career, but the sparring, knowledge and inspiration she has gained through her network has saved her a lot of time and effort. But that value does not come by itself.

It is important that you choose the network that is right for you. You can network to death. But at the same time, it is important that you understand that you only benefit from the network if you contribute yourself. My experience tells me that if you just participate passively and only sit and listen, you lose value. The value is the dialogue and discussion and the building of confidentiality. And you can only build that confidentiality if you’re ready to share, Rikke Hvilshøj explains.


Classic exercises help to promote confidentiality

In both of her networks, the meetings have been a mix of professional presentations and classic networking exercises that members have prepared from home. According to Rikke Hvilshøj, the tasks have not been big tasks, but could consist, for example, of thinking from home, bringing a specific case on a problem or reading an article as a supplement to a presentation or as a starting point for a discussion.

— The most rewarding task for me was when we were to present a specific issue that we needed sparring for. Here I shared things that I usually don’t share. But because of the great trust that was in the group, I dared to share my thoughts and considerations, even though I had not shared them with my own organisation.

I presented my challenge and then the rest of the network was put together in groups, where, based on my presentation and their own experiences, they had to figure out how to solve the task. And then they presented their proposals. What I brought home from the meeting, I could almost use the day after one-on-one. It solved some problems for me and saved me a lot of time. Suddenly I could draw on incredible years of experience from the others and they were at my disposal. It gives a lot to get other people’s eyes on internal issues, explains Rikke Hvilshøj.

She stresses that the exercise of course obliges you to actively contribute when the other members present their case. In this way, you build confidentiality in the network and the members get real very concrete value dividends home.

You come the longest with openness to your network colleagues

When you choose to join a network, you must, according to Rikke Hvilshøj, be both willing to give, but also to receive sparring even if it requires that you open up about your weaknesses.


You must be willing to share, preferably your own challenges and doubts. We have a tendency to always tell others how successful we are, but we don’t learn much from that. If, on the other hand, you share your doubts and are open about your challenges, then you have the opportunity to get the most from your network colleagues. According to Rikke Hvilshøj, the time you invest in your network gives far greater returns than if you were to find the result yourself. But it requires investing in your relationships and also being willing to prioritise time when a network colleague reaches out.

Your responsibility to protect your network

As a result of her previous political career as a member of the Danish Parliament and Minister, Rikke Hvilshøj’s network includes some of the country’s highest decision-makers and it commits, she says:

You are always a filter for your own network and it is my responsibility to dose how much I want to draw on it. I have always been very aware that if I ask someone in my network for something, then it must also have a value to them. I also like to introduce my connections to each other, but it must have value for both parties. I’m destroying my network if I ask network colleagues for services that are wasting their time. You really need to be careful not to exploit your network. You have to give value to each other and if you do, then my experience is that people will actually really like to help you, concludes Rikke Hvilshøj.

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