In today’s ever-evolving organizations, the most important relationship you will have is with your boss. Your boss is accountable for the activities on which you focus. Organization leaders will come to your boss for feedback on your performance. Your boss is the author of your annual performance appraisal. Your success in your organization is dramatically impacted by the impression your boss has of you.
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 as “the degree to which you engage one-to-one with colleagues.” While interactions are one way to raise your visibility, it is inevitable that some interactions will begin to build a relationship.
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:”
There is no doubt that networking is a very important activity. 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 that opportunity is a job or a sale.
The degree to which you interact with others is similar to the nature versus nurture philosophy that we hear or read about regarding human development. In scholarly articles published on this topic, nature typically refers to characteristics you have inherited. These characteristics may include hair color, vulnerability to disease, and personality preferences. Nurture typically refers to characteristics you have developed through interaction with your environment. These characteristics may include language, social perspectives, and opinions.
As you work to expand your interactions beyond networking, you should consider the benefits of increasing the degree to which you interact with others. By interacting with colleagues at your organization, you:
You know office hermits. The colleagues who, hidden within the confines of their offices or workstations, click away on their computer keyboards, mumble their way through conference calls behind closed doors, and slip in and out of their offices and workstations as quickly and silently as they can. It is almost as if they are members in a secret society comprised of individuals that pride themselves on how few colleagues they interact with on a daily basis.
Not all who are unresponsive can blame the overwhelming amount of incoming emails and phone calls as the cause of their behavior. Many of us tend to assume that other people’s low responsiveness is due to workload when, in reality, they may not possess a natural predilection to getting back to others in a timely fashion, if at all. Consider these various places you could find yourself when you attempt to balance a desire to be responsive with your actual responsiveness:
At some point, you will either have the answer your colleagues need or realize that you do not. If you have the answer they need – great! However, once you know that you are unable to help, let your colleagues know as soon as possible so they can go elsewhere. Avoid becoming the “black hole” or “bottomless pit” that exists in so many organizations – respond no matter what.
Once you have quickly acknowledged your colleagues’ outreach, you need to keep them updated on the status of their outreach. You may not have started working on it yet or you have been working on it and you don’t have a response yet. By keeping your colleagues updated, you will benefit in the following ways:
There is a big difference between acknowledging an outreach and providing an answer to the outreach. You may not have the answer or you may not have the time to provide the answer at that moment. Regardless of the situation and in order to help your colleagues make progress, you do need to acknowledge your colleagues. By acknowledging receipt of an email or a phone message, you will benefit in the following ways: