The ability to build and leverage a network of relationships is the best predictor of leadership success, according to a recent article in Fast Company.  Relationship building is one of those skills that isn’t taught in schools or part of training people receive when they become managers.

Many of you were tapped for leadership positions because of your strong individual skills and knowledge.  Making the transition from individual contributor to group leader begins with helping others achieve their goals.  There needs to be a shift in thinking.  Here are some tips to help you get started.

Tip 1:  Clarity.  People want to follow leaders who have a clear sense of where they’re going, a concern for others and a focus on results.  Take time to define where you’re taking your team and communicate it clearly.  Don’t assume everyone knows what is happening.  Builds trust into your relationships.

Tip 2:  Give.  Build relationships by giving as much as you can with no immediate expectation of return.  Sometimes you’ll get a return immediately, sometimes down the line.  You’re in the process of establishing relationships – it’s not instant.

Tip 3:  Wide reach.  Build relationships with people from all aspects of your business.  Relationship building is not just for peers and upper management – it’s also with subordinates.  Don’t limit your effectiveness in the organization – you’re only as good as the people you’re leading.

Tip 4:  Politics.  Some people think that building relationships at work is all about office politics.  Going it alone will only get you so far.  You might miss out on projects that need collaboration.  Getting along with others is as key to your success as the unique skills and abilities you have.

Tip 5:  Results.  Remember that relationships at work are about achieving your organization’s objectives through working together.  If a relationship starts to focus mainly on emotional support, both parties may forget that work is about getting something accomplished.

Tip 6:  Homies.  It’s easy to fall into the trap of developing relationships with those that are most like us, it’s who we feel comfortable with.  The best leaders are those who develop relationships with people who are not like them.  These could be people in different departments, have different skills sets or belong to different peer groups.  You’re also more likely to learn something new from those that are least like you.

Tip 7:  Lunch.  It’s easy to get caught up in the “I’m too busy” mantra.  Take the time to get to know people over a meal.  It’s a way to deepen the relationship and find out more about your co-workers, superiors and subordinates.  Perhaps you’ll need to schedule it in to ensure you do it – once a week, once every two weeks, whatever works for you.  Make sure it’s not one more thing that you’ve been meaning to do.

What relationship building techniques have worked for you?  Have you had any that have backfired?  Any tips on what to watch out for?  Leave your comments below.

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