Beating Interacting with Others Hurdle #1

What is your interacting with others hurdle #1?

I do not meet one-to-one (either in person or by phone) with my boss at least once per month.

What can you do?

– Schedule a regular meeting with your boss, either in person or by phone. If you rarely speak to your boss, you are at risk of becoming irrelevant and invisible.

– Schedule a regular meeting with your boss to ensure that you do not only talk when there is a problem. If you talk with your boss only when there is a problem, you are not raising your visibility with her.

– Schedule time with your boss and ensure you talk about your career, progress on goals, and areas of interest which you both share.

What is the Impact of Frequency & the Pace of Change on Your Ability to Interact?

Your organization is experiencing unprecedented change and the frequency of change (how often change occurs) and the pace of change (how quickly you are expected to change) are having a significant impact on you in your organization.

One significant impact is in your ability to interact and raise your visibility with colleagues. In statistics highlighted in a recent Fast Company article “The Four Year Career,” a United States worker’s median tenure in his or her current job is just 4.4 years. Concurrently and reported in a recent Wall Street Journal article, the average tenure of a Fortune 500 CEO is just 4.6 years. Regardless of the level in your organization, you and your colleagues are transitioning to new roles and organizations faster than ever before.

This frequency and pace of change is having a negative impact on your ability to interact and build relationships with colleagues. Networking is harder to do and less effective when colleagues and their roles change so frequently. Investing your time and energy connecting with others solely focused on networking means a lot of coffee and bagels. And before you know it, the person with whom you networked is no longer there. Any remnant of visibility that you had with this individual (along with your coffee and bagel) is gone.

Your Boss is Your Most Important Relationship

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.

Your relationship with your boss is based on a series of interactions characterized by dependencies and expectations. For a variety of reasons, you often find yourself disconnected from recurring interactions with your boss, which prevents you from building a relationship. It will be difficult for your boss to have an impression of you, especially a positive one, if your interactions are limited. Your interactions with your boss may be limited due to one or more of the following reasons:

– Time. It is not surprising that a significant hurdle to interacting with your boss is time. In an organization where business professionals are expected to do more, with less, and faster, time is at a premium. Many of your colleagues report that weeks may go by without a substantive conversation with a boss; and when a conversation does occur, it was usually due to a problem or a need for a quick piece of information. Successful business professionals find time in their busy day to connect with their boss in substantive ways and to overcome challenges in their bosses schedule by being persistent.

– Personality. As individuals, we all possess personality preferences which differentiate us from each other. Recall the observations earlier in this chapter regarding nature or your natural interest to interact with others. Some of these personality preferences work in harmony and others create conflict. You may feel this at work when you express your feelings in ways such as “I can’t get along with Bob,” or “I don’t know what it is, but I just don’t like Karen,” or “Cheryl and I seem to be from different planets.” Conflicting personality preference differences between you and your boss may create a situation where you avoid spending time with your boss. For more information on the impact of personality preferences at work or to learn more about personality assessments, visit The information and tools found at this website can help you understand personality differences in ways that help you work with colleagues effectively.

– Geography. In today’s virtual and global workplaces, one of the biggest enemies of visibility is geographic distance. When you work in Tampa, Florida, and your boss is in Shanghai, China, or when you work from home and you are barely at the office, your ability to be visible is at significant risk. It can also be frustrating if your boss and your colleagues are situated in the same building and you are the only one working at a remote location. But successful business professionals have found ways to stay visible with their boss, regardless of geography.

These individuals realize that visibility is not just physical visibility (as in being seen), but focused more on interactions (whether physical or not).

The Importance of Relationships

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.

The Difference Between Interactions and Relationships

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.

Networking is an Important Activity

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.

Nature versus Nuture?

ŒThe 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.

What Are the Benefits of Interacting with Others?

As you work to expand your interactions beyond networking, you should consider the benefits of increasing the degree in which you interact with others. By interacting with colleagues at your organization, you

– increase your knowledge of what is occurring at your fast-paced organization, positioning you to ride the wave of change versus being surprised and adversely impacted by change.

– build clearer opinions as to the competencies and capabilities of your colleagues as well as organization direction.

– increase your productivity by utilizing the information gained from your increased knowledge about the business and your colleagues.

– influence decisions that your colleagues are considering by sharing information, opinions, and thoughts.

What is an Office Hermit?

What is an office hermit? These are 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 there is a secret society comprised of individuals who pride themselves on how few colleagues they interact with on a daily basis.

If you are an office hermit, you are at risk of being just a body in a chair or a voice on the phone. When working to raise your visibility in your organization and industry, you need to interact with colleagues.

You may not realize that you are at risk of becoming an office hermit, even if you feel as though you are interacting with a lot of colleagues. When you take a moment to step back and look at with whom you are interacting and how frequently you are interacting, you may find that:

– you are interacting with the same three or four colleagues.
– you are interacting with individuals who are not key decision makers and influencers.
– you are not interacting as much as you think you are.

What Are the Benefits of Networking?

Networking is and will continue to be an important professional activity for business professionals. In fact, 60 – 70% of employed individuals located their most recent job opportunity through networking. In a poll I conducted on LinkedIn, these numbers were corroborated when 59 percent of 1339 respondents chose the category “by networking with friends and colleagues” as the strategy that led them to their most recent job. Therefore, networking was three times more effective as using an on-line job board and almost three times more effective as using a recruiter.

For business professionals looking for their next job or self-employed business owners seeking revenue, networking has many benefits. When networking, these individuals can

– practice how they verbally and visually present themselves to others.
– polish how they describe their goals, needs, and capabilities.
– meet colleagues who can introduce them to others who can help them.
– connect with colleagues whose work complements their own, creating new synergies and opportunities.
– hear what others are doing which may generate new ideas for them.
– try out new looks in their wardrobe, ensuring their wardrobe is polished, up-to-date, and ready for interviews and meetings.
– create opportunities for others to give them feedback on what they are doing that works and what they are doing that could improve.
– catch up with old friends and be reminded that they are not alone.

By and far, networking is the most effective strategy for business professionals to land a job and self-employed business owners to generate revenue.