Thinking beyond your immediate relationships at work – get strategic

Serious international diverse business team people and african female leader boss discuss financial result review paperwork, being an allyWe have now worked at home for a rather long time due to Covid-19!

We have all needed to adapt and communication has had to become more intentional, particularly, for those of us used to having casual chats and impromptu meetings or coffees at work. This means that those we don’t need to interact with to get our jobs done are easy to forget.

It’s been easy to think that building and maintaining strategic professional relationships is something to consider again post Covid, but it has been well over a year now, it really is time to (re)start considering both the default day-to-day professional relationships, as well as other more strategic relationships needed at work.  Increasing your exposure and therefore building strategic relationships is important, if not vital. Exposure is one element of the PIE theory, if you haven’t already, read more about PIE theory and the other two elements that matter in addition to Exposure.

In essence, whilst we might like to think people know about the work we do, our skills and what we have achieved, people who work with you less closely won’t, unless they get to know you or happen to get told. Remember everyone is in their bubble of what they need to get done! Your manager might think you are doing a fantastic job, but it doesn’t necessarily mean he/she is telling others, you need to take ownership of that. Often these more senior people you work less closely with are the ones who make decisions about your working life from big ones like whether you are promoted through to which projects/clients you work on and even who joins your team, if you manage one. Building strategic relationships during and post Covid is of pivotal importance.

Why strategic relationships have been put on hold during the pandemic

  • We were all in shock; it took a while to work out how to work entirely remotely for pretty much all of us who didn’t have a frontline job.
  • We understandably prioritised what to focus on in terms of getting home life and our core job to still happen.
  • We thought the pandemic would soon be gone and we could then return to normal.
  • Human interactions have to be more intentional from home; there are no casual chat opportunities at the coffee machines. Even in meetings, a one-to-one conversation at the start or end of a meeting is a non-existent happening now. Therefore, we need to plan more carefully what we will ‘interrupt’ people for.

Even those who were good at building their visibility and exposure at work have slipped back somewhat.

Building strategic relationships post Covid – what to do now

  1. If you used to have regular interactions one-to-one with more senior people who potentially have influence, then restart this. Suggest a coffee or drink to catch up, keep it informal. If it needs to be virtual then that is fine. Now is a good time to explore whether people are feeling ready to meet up in person if you are.
  2. If you were on a committee at work or part of a social group that has been quiet, how could these activities be restarted? Are there people you used to see in a group you’d feel comfortable engaging with individually?
  3. Make time to have a think about what you want to progress with, regarding your career e.g. getting to know more about another function/division or building your visibility at a certain level of the organisation. I help my clients create a Strategic Relationships Plan which involves thinking about who can help them achieve those objectives and building a plan for getting to know them. This takes time and patience!
  4. Understand who your colleagues know internally and whether some of those connections could be useful to you. Would a trusted colleague introduce you to certain people, if relevant?

All too often, I hear people say, “I’m just too busy to consider this”. I always recommend being disciplined and so, putting aside time in your diary is key.  If you don’t then your day-to-day work really will fill your diary. Start by putting aside a longer slot to consider what you need to do and then regular, shorter slots to progress your plan.  If you need help, then please contact me.

Many won’t return to the office, even in a limited way until September or later. So, don’t wait until Covid has completely gone. I am now running masterclasses on Effective Hybrid Working. Could your company/firm benefit? If the foundations aren’t laid down well, lots could go wrong and disrupt the coming months. Contact me if you’d like to have a chat.

If you want to read more on key skills beyond your expertise and technical ability that are essential for career progression but which are often neglected, sign up to receive my short email series and eBooklet here.

About the author

Joanna GaudoinJoanna Gaudoin, Inside Out Image 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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