No man – or woman – is an island, not even one in the C-suite. To effectively delegate, prioritize, communicate and discern value, you must build relationships with people who are willing and able to help carry out your mission.
If you attempt to do it alone, you will burn out. If you wait until you need someone, you will waste time. The best approach to professional relationships is a proactive one. By connecting with others in your industry and actively seeking top talent, you can find people who will complement your organization’s culture, values and goals.
Leaders who make an effort to build relationships help their businesses grow and expand. In this final installment of our series, we will discuss how to network strategically, hire the right candidates and be an engaged, responsive leader of your team.
Some business leaders believe that networking is all about making the largest number of connections with a minimum amount of effort. Others don’t see the point of investing time in getting to know people if it doesn’t directly benefit their bottom line. Both groups are missing the true value of networking.
While not every connection will produce a sale or new hire, investing the time to build relationships enables you to learn about new opportunities, get people talking about your business and gain valuable insights.
Great networkers begin reaching out early in their careers and have a strategy for making the right connections. Quality matters much more than quantity. Think about the professional relationships you currently have. Who are your 15 most valuable contacts? How did you meet those people? What have you done to develop these relationships? By focusing your efforts in the right areas, you can save a lot of time.
Remember to nurture the connections you have. When was the last time you got in touch with your key contacts? No one appreciates the type of person who only reaches out when they want something. Follow up is especially critical when you meet new people.
To build a strong network, think of ways you can add value for your professional contacts. Did you recently read an interesting article about a bill that may impact her industry? Do you know someone who is looking to hire a contractor to do the services his company provides? Get in touch and pass along the details. Look for opportunities to assist your contacts with pertinent information, advice and connections.
Staying connected with more relevant professional connections makes it easier to find great employees. While many organizations only recruit for positions that are currently vacant, smart leaders develop a pipeline before there’s a specific role to fill. Start doing what people in sales call prospecting.
With each bad hire costing a company an average of $25,000 to $50,000, getting to know potential employees before their first interview makes sense. All your professional connections could be potential candidates or sources of referrals if you invest the time to get to know them.
Always be on the lookout for top talent and encourage your staff and key professional contacts to do the same. Candidates that come recommended by an employee or professional contact have already been pre-screened and are more likely to be a good fit for your company’s culture.
Learn to spot the qualities of a good employee, and consider whether the people you meet through your connections or at networking events have the right skills and attributes to join your team. Stay in contact with anyone that you think might be a good hire in the future.
If you identify someone who is a must have for your team, ask if they would be interested in working for your company. You never know when a position might open, or perhaps there may be an opportunity to create a new role. That person could also provide valuable referrals even if they aren’t interested or available when you have an open position.
Actively engaging with someone is different from simply being present. While someone who just attends a professional conference may collect a bunch of business cards, a professional who makes an effort to ask interesting questions and learn more about other attendees will come away with a much more valuable experience.
It’s important to not just speak to your contacts and employees but also to listen and actively engage with what they have to say. When you take a moment to ask someone about their day-to-day, you create an opportunity to learn something you don’t already know.
Spend some time getting to know your employees and connections and finding out more about their daily work. The valuable insights from these conversations may surprise you.
Some community service organizations and professional associations frequently give members opportunities to address the group. While you may not enjoy public speaking, addressing a group is a great way to let people get to know you and your business. It also forces you to step outside of your comfort zone, which can be a valuable learning experience.
If you have the opportunity to speak to a group, choose your message carefully. You should consider your audience’s interests and how well the average listener knows you when deciding what content to include. Keep your remarks focused and concise. Audiences tend to relate better to stories than facts and statistics, so include a few examples that illustrate what your main points.
Don’t forget to leave time for a question and answer session. By taking questions from the audience, you gain insights into what outsiders want to know about you or your business. In addition to helping you build relationships, this feedback can help you polish your presentation and be better prepared for future speaking engagements.
After you conclude your speech, stick around and mingle. Some listeners may want to connect with you one-on-one. Remember to bring business cards and follow up on these conversations.
To be an effective manager, you need to stay connected with your team. Your business will benefit when you regularly speak with and learn from employees at all levels. Being an active presence in your workplace will help you develop stronger relationships with your staff. While tools like email, web conferences and texting have made communicating more convenient, they are no substitute for in-person interaction.
Great leaders are accessible to their teams. Demonstrate that you are approachable. Take the time to introduce yourself to everyone in your office, from part-time interns to the maintenance crew. When you are considering a new policy or procedure, ask for feedback from your staff.
Make time in your schedule for formal and informal conversations with employees. While you may already spend a lot on conference calls and in meetings, it’s important to create opportunities to really get to know your team. Consider taking employees out for lunch on their work anniversaries or hosting a staff appreciation picnic.
When a team member approaches you with an idea or concern, be sure to follow up. Let them know that you value their opinion even if you don’t agree with their point of view. Lead by example and encourage your management team to adopt similar “open door” policies and build relationships with all of their direct reports.
Employees who feel supported and respected are more motivated than those who feel disconnected from their companies’ leaders. By investing the time and effort to connect with others, you can build relationships that will help you and your company succeed.
Developing a positive, proactive company culture starts at the top. If you model effective communication practices, others will follow your lead. Put these tips into practice to create an environment where your team enjoys coming to work.
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