Building relationships of trust is critical in every stage and scenario of life. As we ponder how to be better and do better in 2017, we must keep in mind that the amount of effort we put into our relationships will determine our prosperity in the New Year.
Our work flows better when trusting relationships have been established in every direction of our work (and we mean every direction). Imagine yourself at the center of a star, with each prong representing a group or individual you interact with on a somewhat-regular basis. Examples of this might be your manager, boss, direct reports, team members, clients, contractors. When you think of each individual in their work, do you know what they do and why they do it? A significant hangup in workflow happens when our focus becomes too narrow—we’re concerned about our work, our deadlines, and our personal progress—and tend to forget about what others are trying to accomplish alongside us. When we take the time to take interest in others’ work, we often realize the potential for support and collaboration in ways we would have previously overlooked.
To many, networking is a cringe-worthy and painful activity. So cringe-worthy in fact, that a 2014 study conducted by Harvard Business School (http://www.hbs.edu/Pages/default.aspx) found that “professional networking increases feelings of inauthenticity and immorality—and therefore feelings of dirtiness—much more so than networking to make friends.” That’s right—we physically feel dirtier when we network—leading many to opt out even when we know it’s beneficial, if not critical to our careers. But the cure for feelings of inauthenticity and immorality lies in the inverse. We can overcome feeling “fake” by developing genuine curiosity about others. What is it about another’s career path, lifestyle or skill set that interests you? How did this person arrive to where they are? What advice might they have for someone looking to accomplish what it is you’re personally seeking to accomplish. Refraining from making it about ourselves, and instead making networking about others, helps to reduce anxiety and feelings of inauthenticity.