Building Authentic Business Relationships

dv1922027A successful business continually reviews their practices, financial outlook and goals in order to plan, adapt and improve both performance and profitability. How do senior level executives accomplish the same sorts of tasks with an eye to continually self improve? Through constant use, you hone your business skills with everyday practice, you maintain both your board and leadership team relationships and always keep your eye to the horizon for new opportunities. These skills are intrinsic to successful senior level executives; however, room always remains for constant career improvement and so we have to add more skills in order to stay competitive. What sorts of skills should we be looking to add to our inventory?

Just as a business is constantly seeking to improve itself with the goal of enhanced performance and higher profit, you, too, are constantly vigilant for the edge that sets you apart from your peers. But what, exactly, is that edge? One thing that sets the superior candidate apart from the mediocre one is their ability to develop and manage authentic professional relationships. In order to better develop these skills, I offer five tips to develop and manage authentic professional relationships.

  • You’ve spent a career developing your craft and are seeking to make a mark on your industry. One way to facilitate this is working with intra-industry organizations. You will meet and work with people from many different facets within your industry. You work with the same people every day, so attending meetings in these organizations (or attending conferences) is key to developing new relationships.
  • Once you meet new people, you have to nurture these relationships. Like a good gardener, you need to demonstrate care and diligence for healthy development. If you want these relationships to work, they are going to need more investment than an exchange of business cards.
  • One way to grow and build relationships is by offering a solution to a mutual problem. Another is constantly keeping your network of people in mind when you uncover information, a tip or lead they could use. In both cases, use the telephone to contact them instead of using email. With email being our constant communication utility, many people will welcome a break from the screen and enjoy the phone call.
  • Mentor people just starting out. Whether they are college graduates or career switchers, many people may not know they need help unless someone offers it. If you make that someone you, chances are you will have begun a lifelong relationship that will pay you both many dividends.
  • Due to professional responsibilities, we are busier than ever before. It’s incredibly easy to become complacent to carve out time. If this is the case for you, simply schedule coffee or drinks with people in your network and hold the date.

There will always be people to hire, skills to develop, relationships with peers, teams, boards and competition to maintain. The astute will constantly review the one thing that so often gets lost in business analytic- people- and make developing and maintaining professional relationships part of their larger plan for success.

Lisa Maxwell
Lisa Maxwell is managing partner at Gerard Stewart, a global executive search firm.

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