How Hard Are You Working at Developing or Fixing the Right Relationships?
By now, most of us understand the importance of developing and maintaining a strong network in our professional lives. However, when I poll coaching clients on their deliberate relationship development and repair activities in their jobs, I’m mostly met with silence. I’ll ask you the same question I ask them:
What are you doing weekly to develop, renew, and repair key workplace relationships deliberately?
If it’s not on your priority list and if you don’t have calendar time earmarked for this work, chances are, you’re not doing enough. It’s time to make strengthening your workplace network a top priority. In this article, I share why and how, along with a few finer points for consideration.
Why?—A Refresh on the Power of a Robust Workplace Network
Your network strength at work is a proxy for your influence strength.
The stronger your relationships with key decision-makers and power-brokers, the better your chances are of gaining support for initiatives, investments, and critical resources when you need help.
It’s essential to have access to resources and support for asks. It’s imperative to have information on shifting priorities ahead of general knowledge so you can respond or plan accordingly. A strong network gives you access to help and information.
A robust internal network improves your odds of career success
There at least three universal rules for success in organizations.
- You need to be attached to important initiatives.
- You have to be visible to those who can choose you for more responsibility.
- You need to deliver!
Your odds of nailing two out of three of those go up considerably when your internal network reaches across the organization and up into the higher ranks.
How to Strengthen Your Workplace Network Weekly
Incorporate relationship activities using your variation of these planning statements.
The relationships I most need to start this week are:
These are the individuals I need to know and need to know me. They might be peers or senior managers and executives who impact my area. Perhaps you’ve been assigned to a new project team or, your group merged with another unit. Your prospect list shouldn’t be hard to create.
The relationships I most need to renew this week are:
These are relationships with people in positions of influence and power that I’ve allowed to go dormant.
The relationships I most need to repair this week are:
These are relationships that, for whatever reason, they took a wrong turn. See my comments below on attitude and approach for this category.
Four Finer Points of Strengthening Your Internal Network
1. Watch the Time/Timing
Be sensitive to the time demands you are placing on people and how they might see the value of the interaction. Ideally, bring something to the situation the other party values. It might be information, ideas, or even praise for something you observed from them or their charges.
Adjust to their schedules. I grew up in a global firm where the most important relationship and issues conversations happened after 6:00 p.m. The style made for some long nights, however, gaining insight, information, and support ultimately translated into benefits for my teams.
2. Make Social Settings Count
Don’t discount the importance of showing up in post-work social settings. I’m cringing a little writing this because there’s a lot that can go wrong in the Happy Hour situations. Don’t let it! Instead, make a showing, engage the individual(s) you are most concerned with, and then make a quiet exit.
3. Adust Your Attitude and Approach for Repairing Broken Relationships
The “Repair” category is the least desirable and not surprisingly the one most people skip in favor of the others. That’s a mistake if you’re on the opposite side of some people who can do damage to you. You need to face up to those challenges and strive to be a better professional. You’ll need a good reason for approaching someone on a fence-mending mission, and come prepared to offer something they value while eating a heaping helping of humble pie.
4. Measure and Monitor Results
Monitor your activities and the outcomes. While it’s nice to do a late-week review and identify the number of relationship activities you acted on, it’s better to monitor and measure results. If you’re not keeping a Professional Journal, this is a great reason to start one today.
The Bottom-Line for Now:
It might feel just a bit “political” to engage in the relationship work outlined here. It is. And, it turns out, workplace politics is mostly about workplace relationships. Why not make sure you are on the right side of the right relationships? It will only help your case.