Grow your relationships to grow your career – Sunday Business Post 20th January 2019

Technical knowledge and ability is of course important in any role, but relationship skills have been found to be equally important in terms of career success. However, for some, these skills may seem to elude them, while for others they come naturally. The good news, is that these skills can be developed and perfected by anyone, given some time and practice. The benefits to these soft skills are that while one may have a great understanding and level of expertise in one’s own field, it is very rare for someone to work in isolation from others and that is why building work place relationships with those, not just in your immediate team, but also the wider organisation and with external stakeholders is vital for success. By taking the time to do this, you will have laid the foundations for cohesion within the organisation and when the time inevitably comes where you need assistance or buy in from a stakeholder, that relationship which you have already taken the time to build can mean the difference between success and failure, getting others on board, or fighting an uphill battle. But for those of us who don’t find these skills easy to master, there are ways of doing this, which can be built on to foster strong working relationships with all stakeholders. Ways of doing this include:

Making small talk, take the time to stop and say hello to people who are not in your immediate department or team. Make it a point to introduce yourself and get to know those in other areas of the organisation, particularly those who have a connection with the work you do. It’s not necessary to spend a great deal of time doing this, but simply taking the time to ask how they are doing or how their weekend was is a good first step in building your working relationship with those individuals. Show an interest and ask questions, don’t focus the conversation on yourself.

Keep your word, if you commit to a deliverable, make sure you honour that commitment. There are times when this may not be possible of course, and if this is the case, let the relevant person or people know in time for them to make other arrangements. If possible, try and think of an alternative. Perhaps most importantly, apologise – a genuine apology can go a long way and the lack of one can irrevocably damage not just your working relationships, but also your personal brand.

Manage your emotions – if you are feeling angry, or frustrated, don’t take this out on those around you. Learn how to manage your emotions and understand when you need to take a step back and clear your head. Exhibiting negative emotions can have a knock on effect and impact the mood of an entire team or department. Don’t be the person who brings others down, learn how to remain calm and composed, even in times of crisis. Go outside, clear your head, go for a coffee and wait for the negative emotion to subside before returning to try and find a solution to the problem at hand.

Help those around you – be willing to offer assistance if you see somebody struggling. If you can’t offer technical assistance, then sometimes a sympathetic ear will be just as effective. Extend this to mentoring junior members of staff and see how you can help them to grow and develop in their role. If you are particularly good at something, such as presenting, consider giving workshops within the company to help train others on how to present well. A task or challenge which may seem easy to you is often something that others may struggle with and helping others with this not only helps build your working relationships, but also helps further the organisations goals and objectives.

While these steps may feel uncomfortable at first, by practising and beginning with small steps and pushing yourself to do them on a regular basis they will soon become easier. Start small and build on your successes, trying something new each week. This will enable you to build the relationships you need for your career to flourish.