By Merrick Rosenberg
In the world of business, as in life itself, relationships play a key role in one’s success and happiness. Yet, we often neglect the key relationships that will create long-term satisfaction.
People do not exist in a vacuum. At one point or another, everyone needs to get out of their cubicles and interact with coworkers to achieve their goals. Individuals must cultivate key relationships in order to achieve optimal short and long-term success. This holds true for the CEO down to the lowest level employee. Strong relationships make communication easier. They create the foundation for teamwork and trust. They help us to achieve our goals.
Weak relationships with people who are decision-makers and sources of information can instantly lead to poor quality and productivity, not to mention derail a career. Strong ties to the right people will put you on the right track.
It’s important to note that cultivating relationships is not about “playing the game” and schmoozing the right people so that you can get promoted. Building the right relationships is about getting results. If you want to be successful, you need access to people who have the critical information for you to achieve your goals. Without that access, you are destined to mediocrity at best.
“The only meaningful contact is one that involves a genuine, giving personal interaction. You may want another person to help you in business, but you must also be willing to help him and to spend time getting to know his interests and needs… It has to be real and heartfelt, or it’s best not to try to establish the relationship at all. ”
– Art Linkletter
Who are the “right” people?
Position does not always equal power. Authority does not always equal influence. Sometimes, a lower-level staff member in a crucial role can make or break the organization’s perception of your own ability to get the job done. You must find these key individuals, and regardless of their level in the organization, you must cultivate strong relationships with them.
One way to identify these key individuals is by using a process I call Relationship Mapping. Here’s how it works:
Step 1: Place your name in the center of a piece of paper. Then surround name with all of the people with whom you interact, placing people at higher levels than you above your name, peers next to your name, and people at lower levels below your name.
Step 2: Draw one, two, or three lines to each person representing the strength of that relationship.
One line symbolizes a weak relationship: You interact with that person just enough to get your work done or communicate information, perhaps you just attend meetings together. Alternatively, you may have significant contact with the person, but you do not work together well.
Two lines symbolize a moderate relationship: You have a fair amount of contact with this individual; you work together well, though your relationship is generally based on getting the job done.
Three lines symbolize a strong relationship: You work together well, you have a significant amount of contact, and this individual would do anything to help you to achieve your work or career goals.
Step 3: Identify those individuals with whom you do not have any relationship with, but you believe you should, and place them on the Relationship Map.
Step 4: Identify those relationships that need to be stronger.
Step 5: Develop a plan to strengthen key relationships.
Step 6: Take steps to foster relationships.
So how do you it? How do you build strong relationships at work? First of all, if you want to build a strong relationship with someone, you must interact with them. This means that you must make the time to contact them. Find opportunities to interact them. Don’t wait for your phone to ring, call them.
The next question is, what do we talk about? This answer is so simple and yet, so profound. Talk about them. People like to talk about themselves more than any other topic. Tap into this reality. Learn about their needs and concerns. Discover what drives them. And most of all, identify what they need from you so that they can be successful.
Once you identify how you can help them to succeed, do everything in your power to ensure their success. In the long-run, your support will be returned to you in ways can hardly imagine. Life is a great circle. What you give will be returned you. Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself. By helping others to be successful, you will be driving your own success as well.”
Take the time cultivate key relationships. Remember, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know that it’s important.