Networked Leadership

Relationship-building will help you garner the credibility, loyalty and influence you need to lead

July 22, 2010

Do you tend to carry the weight of your work on your shoulders? Are you so buried in your projects that you have forgotten how to connect to others? It is easy to get so caught up in our own work that we forgot about those around us. But establishing, developing and maintaining healthy relationships with co-workers and supervisors is critical in today’s hierarchically flat work environments, where operational challenges require collaborative solutions, and no one person has enough of a vantage point to independently assess the implications of complex business decisions. Individual exceptionality and formal authority are no longer enough to garner consensus and spur collective action. It takes communication, likability, and a keen sense of commitment and appreciation for those around you to the build the trust and strong network of organizational relationships necessary to elevate your leadership to the next level.

Your approach to engaging and interacting with those around you is the first step in gaining the respect of your peers. Get to know the people you work with, not only professionally but on a personal level as well. Show a genuine interest and concern for them by remembering details about their personal lives and inquiring about their interests, hobbies and families. Be sure to introduce yourself to individuals that you do not know. When working in a group of people, take it upon yourself to make sure that everyone knows each other. By taking an interest in ensuring that everyone is acquainted, and by helping them grow and work together, you’ll demonstrate your commitment and concern for the team. At group meetings, adopt the “two second rule”. Don’t comment until the last person speaking has finished their statement and try to wait two seconds before saying anything. When speaking, be sure to include everyone by making and maintaining eye contact with those around you. Don’t change the conversation or show disregard or impatience for what others have to say. 

Build Trust
It may seem simplistic or trite, but being friendly is the best way to build relationships. People respond to positivity, so be optimistic, encouraging and complimentary. But be careful to remain genuine. Nothing undermines relationships like dishonesty or insincerity. Understand the dynamics of your co-workers’ personalities, and familiarize yourself with their strengths by observing what they do well. Acknowledge their achievements and provide them with opportunities to hone their strengths. Be sure to celebrate victories and recognize the contributions of others so that they feel appreciated. Your generous spirit will help you win the trust and loyalty of your co-workers and employees.

Model Behavior
Set a good example by modeling drive, dependability, accountability and respect. We’ve all heard the expression “you reap what you sow” but aside from winning you the loyalty of your colleagues, modeling positive behavior provides a template for others to follow, and is one of the most effective and efficient ways to positively impact your team or organizational culture. In addition, consistency between what you expect of others and what you expect of yourself will earn you credibility among your peers, and valuable relationship capital.

The bonds you forge through your positive interactions with others, and the loyalty, credibility and good will you accrue throughout your career may seem immaterial or soft, but they are vital to your success. By being mindful of them and constantly working to improve and nurture new relationships, you will put yourself in a position to exert greater influence over your organization’s strategic direction and reap the benefits of its continued success.