Professional relationships – why they matter right now and what to focus on

Communication, woman maintaining her professional relationshipsCurrently, we’re all adjusting to a new (hopefully temporary) normal and figuring out what we should and shouldn’t be focusing on in this ‘normal’.

Therefore, it was interesting to hear a marketing expert I know say how during the last two recessions people put their heads down and shied away from staying in touch with clients and potential clients; they took the view there’d be no appetite for business.

While there are going to be tough times ahead economically; communicating with your network, building and maintaining your professional relationships is more crucial than ever.

Why?

Four reasons to focus on your professional relationships right now

Whether they are clients, prospects, colleagues, or your wider network, here’s why you need to keep those professional relationships going:

  1. Shared experiences build bonds: More than ever, we all have a shared pain at the moment, although the emphasis may be different for different people. Being human, showing empathy and checking in with people is always important for relationship building. Right now, it can really make a difference to the people around you (and you might never know). How we behave in times of trouble says a lot about our character. If you went silent or disappeared, how could that be construed? And what would it do for your mental health?
  2. It’ll be harder to get in touch later. If we don’t keep in touch now, it’ll be tougher to re-establish the relationship later on. It also makes it look like we’re only interested in being in touch when there might be something on offer to us i.e. business.
  3. Chat with those in a position to chat. Some people (not all) will have more time without the commute and if they don’t have a lot of home responsibilities. They may be more willing to have a casual chat, which helps to build rapport. Rapport leads to a more profitable and rewarding professional relationship.
  4. To work effectively If you’re used to working in an office, you won’t be seeing your colleagues. Therefore the way we usually engage with one another, and hopefully motivate each other, has gone. We need to find new ways to keep this up so effective working continues. Staying in touch via message boards, messages, emails, quick ‘coffee conference calls’ all contribute to this.

While there are many other reasons to stay in touch, those are my top four. But how can you do this effectively? And especially if your time is now precious and full of other commitments and obligations?

How to keep building relationships

First, we’ll look at how to do this with colleagues and then with your external contacts.

Building relationships remotely with colleagues:

  • Establish the frequency of communication and the method. Some teams are having daily calls, others less frequent. It’s essential to establish patterns for both group and one-to-one communication and then to stick to them. Create a new ‘norm’ for people to incorporate into their routine or to give them structure.
  • Understand what constraints individuals have. Some will need to change their working hours to accommodate childcare. Some will be having to find those elusive online shopping slots or take longer lunch breaks as they are shopping for neighbours, friends, family. Be patient with them and help them find workable solutions to stay in touch.
  • Avoid making assumptions about others that can lead to negative patterns. This is crucial now, as you might not have the regular contact that could stop a negative pattern in its tracks. If someone does or says something you’re not sure about, ask. Better this than an unnecessary negative pattern starting.
  • Use this as an opportunity to escape the usual negative ‘Office Politics’, if that’s usually present in your working environment. This is a great opportunity to shift some usual patterns.

Building relationships remotely with external contacts, including clients, prospects and others:

  • Consider carefully what the best way to contact them is – email, phone, LinkedIn message or another way.
  • If you’re calling someone, always check it is a good time to talk.
  • Spend more time than you might usually asking how they are and genuinely be interested.
  • Don’t shy away from suggesting virtual coffees/video calls, if that’s appropriate for the relationship i.e. you’d usually meet up.
  • This is a great time to make sure your online presence reflects who you are now. Particularly focus on your LinkedIn profile and start to interact more on that platform to improve your visibility with others.

To conclude

While we all adapt to this new ‘norm’, relationships are as essential as ever – even in our careers. If you have time to focus on them, do so, even for just a few minutes a day. Here are two further resources to help you:

  1. Short videos on Professional Relationships when you can’t meet in person here.
  1. My email series and booklet to support your career development Nine Neglected Skills for career success here. Packed full of information, advice and actions for you to take, it’ll help you improve your skills significantly.

Best of luck and remember; stay in touch.

Joanna GaudoinAbout the author

Joanna Gaudoin, Inside Out Image (https://insideoutimage.co.uk/) specialises in helping ambitious professionals and their organisations improve performance and achieve their goals.

She does this by helping them master and strategically use the business skills of Personal Impact and Relationship Management. These skills are required for professional success.

Before establishing Inside Out Image, Joanna worked in marketing and consultancy in large corporates. She understands the business world and its challenges. She now helps organisations and individuals understand how to succeed in it.


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