You know that relationships are actually comprised of interactions. To become a relationship, however, these interactions need to create a dependency or an expectation between two or more individuals. As you work to raise your visibility in your organization and industry, some of your interactions will lead to the creation of a dependency and/or an expectation and some will not.
Jathan Janove is a successful attorney, author, speaker, and consultant and each of these roles has required him to interact with colleagues in a variety of ways. Through these experiences, Jathan has built a rich perspective on the difference between interacting and building relationships. “People aren’t interested in what you are selling or what you need. People are interested in building a relationship that is mutually satisfying and beneficial. The focus of the interaction shouldn’t just be me or you, but us. I get to the “us” by focusing more on the other person, asking questions, and offering ways to help them. They feel better by doing the same, and the next thing you know, a relationship is born.” I’ve known Jathan for over ten years and my interactions with him have never felt like networking. Needless to say, Jathan excels at building relationships.
For employed business professionals, some interactions will lead to relationships, while other interactions will lead to more interactions. Regardless of where your interactions take you, additional interactions and relationships all start with interactions. Not networking. Not relationships. Interactions.
It is important to understand the difference between an interaction and a relationship as you work to raise your visibility in your organization and industry. I defined interacting in an earlier posting as “the degree to which you engage one-to-one with colleagues in your organization and industry.” While interactions are one way to raise your visibility in your organization and industry, it is inevitable that some interactions will begin to build a relationship.
How do you define the word relationship as it applies to your organization? I bet you found it difficult to quickly conjure up a definition. “Relationship” is one of those words that we use often, yet we find it hard to define when asked. Consider the following as a definition for relationship – a series of interactions where a dependency and/or an expectation is created.
You will quickly note that relationships are actually comprised of interactions. To become a relationship, however, these interactions need to create a dependency or an expectation between two or more individuals. As you work to raise your visibility in your organization and industry, some of your interactions will lead to the creation of a dependency and/or an expectation and some will not.
There is no doubt that networking is a very important activity. As stressed previously, networking is the primary type of interaction for individuals looking for a job or who are self-employed. By focusing on networking, these individuals build relationships that allow them to make progress in finding their next opportunity, whether this opportunity is a job or a sale.
Conversely, for employed business professionals, networking becomes one of many interactions that lead to some form of relationship that raises their visibility in their workplace.
The key here is that networking is not eliminated. Employed business professionals must reallocate the time and energy they are spending (or others are telling them to spend) on networking to a much broader set of activities. Business professionals must work to raise their visibility and value.
The degree to which you interact with colleagues may be driven by your natural interest to interact with others (nature) or the culture of your organization (nurture). Each of these situations alone can significantly increase or reduce the degree to which you interact with your colleagues.
No time to interact with others + low interest. Your interaction with others is limited to meetings and conference calls. You are not interested in interacting with others and you justify that your low interaction is due to the lack of time you have at work to do anything but keep your “nose to the grindstone.” You are at risk of becoming invisible in, and irrelevant to, your organization.
No time to interact with others + high interest. While you possess a sincere interest to interact with others, the demands of your job and the culture of your organization are preventing you from doing so. You are likely very frustrated by the requirements of your job, which is forcibly sequestering you in your office or workstation. Unless you find a way to satisfy your interest to interact with others, your frustration will grow into dissatisfaction, affecting your work performance in negative ways.
A lot of time to interact with others + low interest. Your job or work environment allows you many opportunities (as stated earlier, this is not unproductive time) to interact with others, yet you have little interest in doing so. You are at risk of being viewed as an office hermit – reclusive, standoffish, and, at worst, misanthropic. Your colleagues will demonstrate little patience for your behavior and you will quickly become irrelevant to your organization.
A lot of time to interact with others + high interest. Your organization provides many opportunities to interact with colleagues and you take full advantage of these opportunities. The high degree to which you interact with colleagues is driven by your interest in doing so. You recognize the benefits of interacting with colleagues (i.e., increased knowledge, influence, productivity) and take advantage of your organization’s environment to do so.