Networking – 7 Ways To Build Strategic Relationships In The Corporate World
Building and nurturing relationships, seem to come naturally to leaders. But, is this really so? If you observe closely, you will find that these very leaders have put in huge effort into building their people skills. And, what you thought came naturally to them as part of their personality, is actually a result of hard work and focus.
So, why is it important to build and nurture relationships?
We live in an interdependent world where anything we want to achieve or get done, involves people invariably. While we are all cognizant of this fact, not many of us make a conscious effort to build our people skills. The three questions below will demonstrate why relationships are critical to your career!
When Was The Last Time You Worked On Your Own And Were Responsible For Your Outputs Alone?
If you ask yourself this question, you will find that no matter what stage of your career you are in, there is practically no position where you work completely on your own with no interaction or dependency on any other person in your organization. This means, if you want to succeed and deliver quality output you will need to engage with and depend on other people for inputs, support or to simply do their part of the work that is required for you to complete yours.
As You Rise In An Organization What Happens To Your Sphere Of Influence?
When you begin your career, you usually start at an entry-level position where you may not be responsible for other people’s work. However, at the entry level your dependence on other people to complete your work is very high, while your power to engage them, is limited. This changes dramatically as you rise in the organization hierarchy where you will be responsible for not only yourself but also for a lot of other employees. In addition, your sphere of influence moves from within the organization to outside it, significantly.
If You Look At The Star Performer In Your Organization What Do You See?
In all probability, this will be a person who interacts with a huge number of people and accomplishes far more than what a person can do single-handedly. That is the power of relationships.
So, What Does It Take To Be Really Good At Building And Nurturing Relationships?
1. Develop A Liking For People
Show me a person who dislikes other people and I will show you a person who will find it incredibly difficult to succeed at anything!
People tell me- you cannot like everybody. Well, that may be true but have you observed how it is so easy for some people to dislike something or the other in most people they come across?
So, how is it that you can find something that you dislike in a person quickly but find it difficult to find anything nice about the same person? The fact is, you will only find what you are looking for.
If you want to change this, try taking an interest in people you meet. Find out a little more about them, what is it that they like to do, what interests them and what is their life outside of work. It may surprise you, but if you were asked to give this very information about 20 of your colleagues, you could end up struggling after the first five.
Leaders on the other hand, take an active interest in people and give others their time willingly!
2. Move From Transactional To Strategic
One of my past colleagues, a highly competent person, was usually very busy. At any point in time, when you met him, there would be three to four people in a discussion with him, while he would be working on his laptop and at times taking a call simultaneously. Most of the time the outcome of a discussion with him, would be inconclusive.
You had to work really hard to get his attention and even harder, to retain it!
It’s a wonder how many of us treat our interactions with our colleagues, associates and people we meet in our daily lives, as a one time interaction and restrict ourselves to focusing on getting whatever we need out of that interaction. How can you establish a relationship if your only focus is on what you want to the exclusion of anything that the other person may want?
Think about it, sometime, we don’t even listen with attention to what another person is saying.
If you are serious about building strategic relationships, focus on what the other person wants and you will soon find whatever you want is easily available to you. And, if you are serious about being a leader then you cannot afford to treat any interaction as transactional.
3. Don’t Ask Your Team To Do Something You Yourself Are Not Prepared To Do
While I was working in TCS I had the chance to work with a person called Tanmoy Chakraborty, who headed the Government Business. A very articulate person, a powerful motivator and a Go-getter, one thing differentiated him from other people- he would never ask his subordinates to do something that he himself was not prepared to do.
For him, the team always came first. If there was an urgent deadline to meet and the team was working late, he would always be available and the last person to leave the office after everyone else had left.
When you have this attitude, success with relationships and leadership, cannot be far behind.
4. Go Out Of Your Way To Interact With People, Particularly When You Don’t Have Any Work With Them
While working in IBM there was a client that I met regularly every week with no agenda, for over a year. Over that time, I got to know this client and built a great relationship with him. One year later, we ran into a major unforeseen problem with our project. I reached out to the client and frankly shared our position with him.
Realizing that this was a genuine issue, he went out of his way to help us resolve the issue completely. This would never have happened had I gone to him with the problem at the first instance and not really built a relationship first.
The best time to get to know someone is when you are not looking for anything from him or her. When you reach out to a person only when you have some work, chances are that he or she will be defensive and not receptive.
5. Do Something For Others Without Expecting Anything In Return
Some years ago while I was working with TCS, a potential client approached me. He wanted us to develop a software solution for him. After talking to him, I realized what he wanted was very rudimentary and that it would be better for him to get the work done elsewhere at a lower price, even though he was willing to stretch his budget. Accordingly, I told him that it would be more cost effective for him to get this work done elsewhere, from a smaller entity.
He took my advice and I forgot about this incident.
Three years later, the same person who had by then moved to a much larger company, approached me. He had a large project for us and wanted only TCS to execute it.
Many people believe that doing something for anyone involves their time or resources. They cannot be further from the truth.
When was the last time you appreciated your colleague or team member? When was the last time you paid them a genuine compliment? People crave appreciation and genuine feedback. When you appreciate someone genuinely, it tells him or her that you care about him or her.
Good leaders, do this all the time. Try saying ‘Thank You’ to anyone who does something nice for you and see the difference!
6. Build Courage Of Conviction
In my last assignment while I was working for FreeBalance, I had the opportunity to work closely with the CEO, Manuel Schiappa Pietra. Manuel is an amazingly fit person and a long distance runner. He is also someone who stands by what he believes in, and is willing to pay any price for it. He swears by results and can do amazing things to motivate his team.
People, who stand by what they say or do, tend to be better at relationships than people who vacillate and change from time to time. That’s because relationships are built over time and having the courage of conviction is seen as a sign of someone who will invest in a relationship and will not walk away when things go wrong, as they sometime do.
So, backing your convictions could make you more consistent in your dealings with people and therefore increase the perception of your reliability.
7. Be What You Are
One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself- is to be yourself!
It is amazing how we change ourselves in a bid to conform to what we interpret as the requirements of our environment. In the process we sometime, come across as contrived or false. When you try to come across as someone or something you are not, it can take a toll on your energy levels. Being constantly at watch not to reveal your true self can be very taxing and limiting. Instead, being what you are can be very liberating and also help you in connecting with people better.
By being genuine and not being afraid to show your true emotions, you come across as more human and trustworthy! People relate to you better, when they know that you have nothing to hide.
“The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.” —Theodore Roosevelt
About the Author:
Srinivasan is an independent consultant working in the area of strategy and technology interventions in the public sector domain. He has worked in companies like IBM and TCS and has over 30 years of experience spanning 24 countries.