Relationships in Business are Important

Relationships in Business are Important

Relationships in Business are Important

Right now, relationships in business are particularly top of mind for me. I recently lost a friend to COVID-19 who I first met in 1976. Over the years our relationship was sometimes close and at other times waned, but we always had a connection. I saw my friend in person last a year before he died, when he told me how much he valued our friendship. Relationships, like this one, are important to me. Connection is one of my core values so nurturing relationships comes naturally.

In the course of a lifetime, many people may come into and out of your life. Relationships have multiple variables (strength, purpose, longevity, etc.). Some last for only a short while and some persist. Some relationships are situational (co-workers), while others become friends and transcend any particular situation. We also may categorize our relationships differently (friend, family, co-worker, mentor,boss, colleague, ally to name a few). Regardless of why we have a particular relationship, all relationships need to be nurtured to flourish, especially relationships in business.

Nurturing Career Relationships

One of the people I mentored while working in corporate America brought a problem to me for my input. He wanted to compete for a position that aligned with his overall career plan. However, he wasn’t well known to the people who would influence the selection. This guy was very focused and a hard worker – he did outstanding work but because he was so focused on doing the current job, and was introverted, he didn’t invest much time in nurturing career relationships. His outlook was that relationships were for outside of work. Now he was faced with a situation where he needed allies to help him, but he hadn’t built any relationships that he could leverage to achieve his goal. He had to put in a significant amount of effort in a short period of time to nurture dormant relationships and build new ones. He wasn’t selected for that position, but he learned to start making relationships in business a priority.

The Relationship Matrix

Even though nurturing relationships is easier for me, to successfully network, one helpful practice I learned from a mentor is to create a “Relationship Matrix.” The matrix is a list of people that you want to build and nurture a relationship in business with. It has three key elements:

1.    Who (name and contact information)

2.     Frequency (minimum amount of time between contact – monthly, quarterly, etc.)

3.     Notes (things addressed last time you met or want to talk with them about now)

I use this matrix for career or work relationships, but it could be used for any type of relationship. At any one time, I have at least five people listed on the matrix. Some of the names change over time depending on my current role/situation or theirs. I always make scheduling check-ins a priority. Our check-in sessions seldom have an agenda other than to catch up on what is happening in our respective lives and careers. But having an ongoing relationship makes it easy to reach out if one of us needs help from the other.

It is a good practice to review your Relationship Matrix regularly and make any needed changes. For example, when moving into a new role, you should review the matrix to see if you need to add someone who might be helpful to connect with in that new role. Also, if someone on the matrix becomes a good friend, you might remove them as you no longer need to remind yourself to connect with them regularly as a relationship in business. When I had an assistant, they knew it was a priority for me and we worked together to ensure that I had check-in meetings with each person on the matrix at the designated frequency.

Click here to download a free Relationship Matrix template.

Maintaining Relationships in Business

My consistent use of this Relationship Matrix approach served me well throughout my corporate career. There is a particular example that stands out. I was working in a role that I loved but with a boss that wasn’t a good fit. Although I tried to make it work for close to a year, it became clear to me that I needed to move on. I was experiencing a particularly low point and was having trouble seeing different options other than leaving the company. At that time one of my regularly scheduled check-ins with a person on my matrix was scheduled to happen. Because we had developed a strong relationship and trust over a period of a few years, it was easy for me to share that I was in a toxic work situation and needed to make a change. We brainstormed opportunities together that day and stayed in closer touch over the next few months until I found and transitioned into a new role within the company. Had I not been consistent with building relationships I think my situation might have had a different, not-so-positive outcome.

Relationships are like plants. You need to keep nurturing them to enjoy the flowers.” – Tania Giri

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Debbie Collard, co-founder of Seasons Leadership, has 30+ years of leadership experience. She served on the National Baldrige Foundation Board of Directors for 15 years, including as the first female Chair of the Board. She is an iPEC- and ICF-Certified Professional Coach and co-author of The Making of a World- Class Organization, a practical guide for leaders to engage employees and increase profitability.

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