How to keep your networks alive without seeming pushy

by Shannon Houde

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”- African Proverb

In a few of my past columns I’ve been highlighting what I call the three P’s of a successful impact career: purpose, potential and finally, people. I’ve saved the best and most important P for last. After all, I’m a strong believer that you can’t get anywhere worth going, alone.

Relationships are your facilitators to personal growth. They are the mirror that challenges you to see the truth of who you are and what you value, both spiritually and professionally.  After achieving clarity about your purpose and gaining confidence about your potential, it is time to consider how you can leverage your network – your people, your clan, your champions – to help you align it all to achieve your career ambitions.


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This starts with taking stock of the positive relationships in your life and checking in with them. Don’t forget – healthy, productive relationships require effort and nurturing.  Steven Covey’s five-day Seven Habits of Highly Effective People course, that I took more than two decades ago, included homework to identify the top 10 relationships that are most important to you and rotate three per week that you will focus on doing something special for.  It is a concerted effort but one that pays off in droves.

Here are a few important things to keep in mind as you reflect on communicating with your current network.
Embrace the changing face of communication via the digital world

We all know that business revolves around relationships and that people “buy” from other people. In the past these human connections have largely been face-to-face. But now that technology has allowed us to forge new relationships regardless of distance, virtual relationships are becoming the norm. The key here is to not shy away from reaching out via LinkedIn or even picking up the phone or requesting a Skype video call.  We can now actually “see each other” rather than just hear, so don’t be shy or afraid to ask for video so that you can see their body language and eyes.

According to a recent BT study called “The Changing Face of Business”:

56% of businesses have clients they’ve only ever contacted by email.

42% of businesses communicate with each other by email.

And only 26% of people use the phone on a daily basis.

I’ve experienced the benefits of the digital, or virtual, world myself in my small consultancy. I’m based in London but work with both clients and my employees all over the world. My (amazing) assistant is based in New York, and I hired her over the phone and did not meet her in-person until she had already worked for me for two years!  I also meet with more than 2/3s of my clients outside of the UK via Skype and video conferencing. As a sole proprietor, I’m grateful for social media and other digital tools that have allowed me to build my business and to scale the impact of my life’s work in ways that would not be possible otherwise.  But I also don’t shy away from picking up the phone.

Foster authentic collaboration

Being a good listener and communicator promotes quality work, meaningful collaboration and sustainable relationships.  However, today’s technological business environment is highly complex and demanding, placing incredible pressures on you to perform at an increasingly fast pace, taking away time from loved ones. Therefore it’s important to check in on your relationships regularly and make sure you are nurturing the most important ones – ones where you are giving and getting back in overall equal measure.

One way of meeting these demands is to embrace collaboration and partnership as a way of working. According to that same BT report, 82% of businesses have had to seek help from another organization when attempting a new or unfamiliar task at work. This goes for the people in those businesses too. In order to grow and forge new skills, we need strong networks made up of mentors, partners, and team players.

As helpful as technology has been for me, conducting business through virtual meetings and emails, as well as managing remote employees, requires an exceptional ability to listen and stay on task.

Take care of you

Strong relationships with others help us stay true to our authentic selves, but remember, at the end of the day the most important relationship you have is with yourself. Our compassion and empathy has to start from within, for ourselves. This in turn instills a positive sense of self worth and confidence as well.  There are volumes of self-help books on this topic but one of my favorites is David Whyte’s, Three Marriages, where he dives deep into the importance of our relationship with self, our relationship with our work, as well as with our partner.

It’s important to check in with you and your people on a regular basis.

So ask yourself…

Am I aware of my own feelings? Do I feel connected in a meaningful way with others around me?

Then make a list of the 3 most important relationships in your life right now. What is one thing that you could do differently to build the relationships that matter most to you within or outside of work?

If you are stuck, I challenge you to do one thing for yourself, for organization, for your team, for your kids:

If you are a Manager:

  • Understand what brings daily fulfillment to each member of your team

If you are a Purpose-Oriented Worker:

  • Tailor your job and career to optimize for strong relationships that help you achieve impact

If you are a Parent:

  • Show your kids how you build relationships, make a difference, and grow through your work

No matter who you are:

  • Find a moment everyday to practice and share gratitude and empathy for others, including yourself

For some bespoke advice on personal growth and meaningful relationships get in touch with me.

This post was originally published at GreenBiz

Photo credit: Unsplash, via Pixabay


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