Cultivating great relationships to build your network is the key to the many doors of your career – and to its success.
In truth, no matter what your industry you are bound to bump into someone who you have crossed paths with before, and you never know who you may need to lean on in the future. By building a strong network with lasting relationships you will enhance your personal brand, gain contacts and resources as well as kickstarting your evolution into a go-to person.
Relationships are about trust, curiosity and connection. Whether you are nurturing the needs of a client, searching for a mentor or building a working relationship with your team, it is essential to career success to have the ability and interpersonal skills to form a community.
Here are six ways you can start to create great relationships which will build and enrich your network.
1 – Make it personal
‘Did you have a good time away in France?’ – Remembering details about someone shows that you have listened, are generally interested, and it also makes them feel respected. Frame the question so they can simply answer yes or no but leave them wriggle room to expand if they want to. And, if you don’t have an elephant-type memory, write it down in your notebook or in a separate meeting invite, right next to the scheduled one. You don’t have to be personal in every interaction, just often enough to start to build trust.
2 – Listen more, speak less
It is only natural that we want to wade in with an answer, to give advice or to throw our opinions into the mix. But before you do, consider: have you fully grasped what they are asking you? Here are three coaching questions you can use, to gather what is being asked:
- ‘… And what else?’
- ‘What do you think you need to do?’
- ‘How can I help?’
By listening more and understanding your audience, you both build compassion and light the way towards an answer, which is a great foundation for a reliable and resourceful relationship.
3 – Understand your capacity
Back in my early career, a senior manager taught me the motto “never over-promise then under-deliver.”
It is frustrating and disappointing when you have someone who says yes to everything, only to let you down at the last minute. That behaviour doesn’t spark confidence in others, thus the likelihood of building a great relationship is doubtful.
However, someone who understands the limits of their capacity and offers an alternate solution will engender trust and provide a better service. By politely saying – ‘Gosh, I don’t have the capacity right now to take that on, however if it isn’t too urgent, I could do that next week/month/year?’ or ‘I can’t do that right now, but let me put you in touch with someone who I know has the capacity and can help you.’ Someone who is well-connected is a great ally to have! Make sure that’s you.
4 – Always follow up
Like many, I was brought up with the imperative to always write a thank you note, after Birthdays, Christmases, sleepovers… and this is a habit that we can usefully implement in our adult career. Following up after a meeting, interview or networking event not only puts you in a positive light but also shows a level of aptitude, interest and, again, respect. It doesn’t have to be war and peace – a few sentences will suffice – but it can make a world of difference to the recipient’s day.
How many emails and DMs do you get? I know, mostly they are sales pitches and you just want to junk them… but make it part of your brand to reply. My go-to line is “Thank you for thinking of me, but <insert service/product here> isn’t something I need right now. All the best.”
5 – Don’t push your boundaries
You may have a great relationship with your boss or a business connection, but make sure you read the room. Don’t become a hassle who is constantly messaging and asking questions – often people do this to just spark up conversation, and there’s a time and a place for everything. Learn where the line is, and don’t cross it unless invited over.
6 – Share your knowledge
Being a secret squirrel is a thing of the past. I used to work with someone (and I bet you have too) who was perpetually cryptic about their work, ducked scrutiny and never uploaded their documentation to our shared areas. As you can imagine, it didn’t land too well with the team or the business.
People like to be in the know. They like to learn from others. Feed their curiosity. You can be the judge of the knowledge that you give, but by giving nothing away you are closing yourself off, thus potentially closing career doors.
Building lasting business relationships takes dedication and consistent work. Remember to be authentic and respectful: be who you are and accept others as they are.
Lucy Grimwade is a Career & Leadership Coach, working with ambitious women to step up in their corporate careers. Lucy is on a mission to change the face of leadership by empowering and enabling women to step up into leadership roles, whilst remaining authentic and purposeful. Connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on instagram @thelucygrimwade.