Defined: Able to develop and maintain partnerships with others, both inside and outside the organization, who can provide information, resources, and advice.
“I believe that you can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” – Zig Ziglar
Over the past hundred years or so, the structures of organizational communications have evolved to accommodate open offices, remote workers, empowered intra- and inter-team collaboration, real-time global meetings, and social media. The old models of less organic employee interaction with peers, exclusively vertical decision-making and stark lines between business and social schedules and activities are company culture forms of the distant past. Today's project teams are creatively free-ranging. Decision-making involves much more hierarchically flat protocols, and operating on social platforms are recognized as standard business practice. For individuals averse to this ambiguously structured work environment, building the strong interpersonal communications framework that is necessary for sustained success can be a difficult challenge. But, those who welcome immersion in it can thrive in the highly-interpersonally interactive environments, and they can discover that there are few limits on what can be accomplished.
Leaders Skilled in Building Strong Relationships
- Frequently provide opportunities for two-way communication
- Are viewed as authentic and vulnerable
- Extend trust to others
- Are open to different ideas, solutions, and points of view
- Display high emotional intelligence
- Are able to solve conflicts quickly
- Create a large network of strong and loose ties
What Prevents the Ability to Build Strong Relationships
- Inexperience with business rapport building
- Shyness, poor self-image, or other inhibitive traits that can disable relationship-building with a wide range of personality types
- Inability to figure out where to locate or how to approach new resources or information.
- Lack of exposure to diverse groups
- Off-putting selfish motives in attempts to establish relationships
- Strong preference for a low profile, or even anonymity
- Disproportionate amount of focus on networking activities while failing to meet other responsibilities
- Difficulty reaching out to unfamiliar people
- Closed off to new methods and ideas
- Disdain for dealing with workplace dynamics, i.e. “office politics”
- Discomfort with nonlinear organization of activities
- Is it your habit to avoid accepting invitations or attending occasions for business socializing? How about for personal socializing? How many of such occasions did you attend in the past month? In the past year?
- How many times in the past month did you touch base by phone, email, text or regular mail with an important (internal or external) customer? In the past year?
- Do you only reach out to others when you need something?
- Do you truly care about your colleagues?
Tips for Building Strong Relationships
- Take an interest in people at every level of the organization. Seek to understand their experience.
- Treat every person with respect, regardless of their rank or relevance to your personal objectives.
- Help people feel comfortable communicating with you. In conversations, smile, make eye contact, be genuinely welcoming and kind. In written communications, use everyday language and friendly greetings.
- Adopt a flexible attitude toward traditional methods, recognizing that today's most robust networks are intergenerational, requiring openness to new ways.
- Try to get to know people as individuals. Think about what is interesting about each person with whom you're in contact.
- Accept that contacts networks are fluid, not strictly manageable resources.
- Always return favors when asked, if possible. If not, genuinely emphasize your commitment to do so in the future.
- Recognize the indispensability of diverse networks for providing opportunities for diverse contributions of ideas and innovation.
- Accept that individuals may be dealing with private circumstances. Strive to discern when it's not a good time for them to work with you, and commit to get in touch in the future.
- Ask for information about people in your organization who can help with various kinds of resources and who may benefit from borrowing resources from your department in reciprocal relationships of helping one another accomplish goals, if needed.
- Keep a well-organized database, to make accessing your contacts information easy. Create fields for all types of information that may be useful to you, so that you can sort by those.
- Use social media platforms in a responsible manner. Be careful, even on those you use for personal posting, to ensure that you do not post anything that can negatively impact your professional image or your relationships with your employers or professional contacts in any way.
Developmental Action Plan for Building Strong Relationships
- LEARN: Read the article, Builds Strong Relationships, in the LEADx library.
- LEARN: Read the book (or LEADx Summary), Relationship Economics, by David Nour.
- LEARN: Read the book (or LEADx Summary), Who's Got Your Back, by Keith Ferrazzi.
- LEARN: Listen to the podcast “Networking Made Simple | David Burkus”, in LEADx.
- REFLECT: Complete the Leadership Self-Reflection: Building Relationships worksheet, in the LEADx Library.
- SCHEDULE: Schedule one hour each week to build “weak ties” on LinkedIn or other digital platforms.
- PRACTICE: In meetings this week focus on your body language and non-verbals; are you open and friendly? Smile!
- PRACTICE: This week, practice disagreeing without being disagreeable. Keep others feelings in mind.
- APPLY: Do an off-site meeting with your team (a pizza lunch is just fine). Listen and learn about their personal lives.
- APPLY: Think of someone you've met and would like to know better. Invite them to coffee.
- APPLY: To meet new people, join a committee, employee resource group, book club, or other group.
- APPLY: Don't forget to strengthen bonds with your peers. What are their current goals and challenges? How can you help?
Additional Points for Thought
A strong network of contacts can help you achieve you get things done more efficiently to reach your objectives and goals. The information and assistance resource that you develop around you increases your reach in the world and multiplies your capabilities. Networking is also important on a personal level. Beyond purposes of bolstering our range of external resources, we humans actually have a biological need for interaction with others, as a matter of overall mental and physical health.
Suggested Additional Resources
- Coburn, D (2014, May) Networking Is Not Working: Stop Collecting Business Cards and Start Making Meaningful Connections, Ideapress Publishing, ISBN:-10: 1940858089; ISBN-13: 978-1940858081.
- Dale Carnegie (1936, 1964, 1981) How to Win Friends and Influence People, Pocket Books, ISBN-13: 978-0091906351, ISBN-10: 0091906350.
- Harrington, S (2017, June 30) How To Build Strong Business Relationships, Forbes, https://www.forbes.com/sites/samanthaharrington/2017/06/30/how-to-build-strong-business-relationships/#408b04c9356f.
- Grant, A (2013) Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success, Penguin Random House, ISBN 13: 9781780224725.
- Zwilling, M (2018, May 10) 6 Strategies for Building the Relationships You Need to Succeed in Business, Inc., Retrieved 3-5-19 from: https://www.inc.com/martin-zwilling/6-strategies-for-building-relationships-you-need-to-succeed-in-business.html.
- Lendrum, T (2011, October) Building High Performance Business Relationships, Wright Books, ISBN: 9780730377740.
Suggested Internet Search Terms
business networking, building professional networks, professional networking, social capital, networking on LinkedIn, maximizing LinkedIn profile, Keith Ferrazzi, David Nour