Nurture Your Professional Relationships To Ensure Success

Mar 20, 2015 1 Min Read


How to avoid missing goals and career derailment

None of us achieve success alone. The world of work is probably the biggest team sport any of us will ever take part in.

Yet, at times, it can feel like our co-workers are on the opposing team rather than playing on the same side and for the same company. Relationships matter.

Mismanaged relationships

When mistakes happen, goals are missed, and when careers derail, it’s not usually about a lack of competence or expertise. It’s usually because of mismanaged relationships.

The quality and health of our professional relationships have a direct impact on the output of our work, our morale and motivation, and in some cases, our reputation.

This is especially apparent in times of transition – when you are moving from one role to another, promoted to a new leadership level, or joining a new organisation.

While effective leaders and managers are at the heart of every successful organisation, many companies still operate a “sink or swim” approach to development and don’t provide support during critical transitions.

This becomes even more apparent as we move through our careers. With experience and seniority comes the (false) assumption that “you’ve been doing this long enough, you’ll work it out”.

I’m sure you will, but at what cost?

Seamless transition?

When it comes to success in a new role, the statistics are not pretty. Research and articles consistently report that the ramp up time for leaders moving into a new role averages six months.

Think about your last promotion, how did you prepare yourself for your new responsibilities? What support did your company provide?

It is apparent that every leader will make mistakes along the way. With a little care and attention, and investment in your development, you can help transition into your new role more quickly, preventing not just a potential financial loss, but also damage to your reputation.

I spent 15 successful years in the commercial finance industry, where the focus was entirely on business strategy, the bottom-line.

Numbers ruled the day. The mantra was:

“It’s not personal, it’s just business.”

However, what I quickly observed was that the successful companies, teams and leaders, those that not only achieved but exceeded expectations, were the ones that focused not on the numbers alone, but also on their people strategy, on cultivating winning relationships.

Winning relationships

Cultivating winning teams, employees who are engaged and pulling in one direction is not just a nice thing to have.

It’s a business imperative. It’s a personal imperative.

We’ve all worked with people that we dislike or find irritating and frustrating to be with.

The person whose ego is so large the office has to install double doors to get their head through, the colleague who just can’t stop talking about anything but work, or someone who seems to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders and seeks to share their complaints with everyone.

On the other hand, I am sure you have experienced professional relationships that embodied the partnership approach.

A colleague who went out of their way to help you to succeed, who collaborated and shared information to ensure individual and business goals were achieved.

A winning workplace relationship doesn’t just “happen” by chance – and neither does an ineffective one.

Successful leaders nurture their relationships.

Do you need to nurture your professional relationships?

Take a minute to write down the three critical goals you must achieve in the next few months.

Next to each goal, write down the names of your co-workers who can directly impact and help your success, or potentially undermine it.

  • As you consider each person, how would you describe the health of that working relationship today?
  • Is it healthy and focused on mutual success, or is it better characterised as one that is tense and more adversarial?

If you realise that you are part of a relationship that isn’t as productive as you need, don’t panic. You can turn this around.

Whatever the reason for why you find yourself where you are, you owe it to yourself to make the first move to effect change.

Here are four steps that will help you to cultivate winning relationships across your organisation:

  1. Develop

    Make sure to focus on developing relationships across the organisation, the horizontal relationships with your peers, and not just the vertical relationships up and down through the company.

    Seek out opportunities to get to know the people around you as people, not just at the transactional level of “can you do this for me?”.

    You may be surprised at just how connected you may be when you take the time to ask a few questions and listen to their response.

  2. Adjust

    As you transition to new leadership levels, the advice and input you need from others will likely change. Moving to a new role or leadership level is the opportunity to re-evaluate your network.

    Take the time to identify where you may need to supplement your network with advisors who can provide a different perspective. You may need to recalibrate other relationships.

    For example, if you are now managing people who were your peers, don’t assume that everyone perceives the need for change in the same way as you do. Make the implicit explicit.

  3. Work

    Ask for help and input from your colleagues as you may just receive a suggestion you hadn’t considered! By asking questions, your co-workers become vested in your success.

    Understand what you can do to help ensure your success, and share what you need and expect from others to support the goals of you and your team.

  4. Share
    In my book, I talk about the concepts of generosity and abundance, one of the four elements of an ally.

    The most successful people are the ones who share their network and expertise. They give more than they take.

    Make introductions, share your wisdom and build a reputation for being the go-to person.

Parting words

Finally, stay in the game, and if necessary, change your game. There is so much at stake – for you and your team.

To be a successful leader, remember that business is personal and relationships do matter.

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Morag is the best-selling author of Cultivate: The Power of Winning Relationships and CEO of SkyeTeam, an international HR consulting and leadership development company. Her experience ranges from senior executive coaching to developing leaders and teams across Europe, America and Asia.

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