In these unprecedented times, there have never been better examples of solidarity, coming together and unity – people powering up for the greater good. As we all adapt to steering a different kind of ship, the need to connect and nurture relationships to get through is more important than ever.
First off, how are you doing? I still can’t quite believe the difference a few weeks makes. I was looking back at pictures of my recent Power Up event showing a room packed to the rafters filled with high energy, positivity and emotion. Right now, these pictures already look like they’re from another time – I mean, there were so many people really close to each other for a start and not an elbow touch in sight!!
There’s no doubt about it, things are tough but the one thing that us humans are built for is resilience: the ability to cope with most of the things life throws at us, even if we have to dig extra deep to do it. For me, my Power Up book’s content has taken on a whole new meaning. The overlying message was that no significant change is made individually. Rather, the key to success lies in surrounding yourself with people who support, challenge and help you grow, both personally and professionally.
I’d like to share with you a few extracts from the Relationships chapter, tailored to our situation right now, on how prioritizing people can be the difference between surviving and thriving.
The benefits of relationships are huge, both for your career and life in general. Choosing to be around people who lift you up, who make you laugh and give you their attention, even just for ten minutes, can help you stay engaged and excited, even on the dullest of days.
Taking the time to build strong and wide-reaching networks at work means you’ll find it easier to access practical support and advice when you need it. Making time for relationships outside of work is essential for balance. Friends love you for who you are, they define and bring out the best in you.
For me, true friendship has always come from my best pal, Heather. We met as teens and bonded through many escapades that included travelling Europe on a wafer-thin budget. Even though she lives in the US, the bond is still strong because we know each other inside out and would drop everything for one another if needed.
So how can we make the most of the time we have to build and maintain relationships?
Relationships can be developed at an individual level or collectively. One-to-one relationships are deeper and take longer to cultivate, whereas relationships with groups – the profile you develop and what you can get from that – can be quicker to establish.
An effective way of maintaining and deepening professional relationships is by scheduling informal get-togethers where the agenda is simply to catch up rather than going into work mode. You can also organise your own gatherings or invite people to events that you know they’ll be interested in. All of this can be done on and offline.
To keep a track of who you’ve met, it’s helpful to keep a record, in the same way as an organisation would have a Customer Relationship Management system to track and manage interactions. LinkedIn can act as your virtual little black book which you can supplement with your own system or one that’s set up by your organisation.
For a relationship to deepen, it needs to move through a series of stages and this often happens when we have an interest in common. As Dr Robert B. Cialdini explained in his book Influence, we are most likely to say ‘yes’ to people who we like or people who are like us. This commonality might not be immediately apparent, and so it pays to spend time delving into what makes the other person tick and the values you share. Many of us have more time on our hands than normal at the moment, so allocate some of it to virtual one to ones through Zoom or Skype, or just pick up the phone.
For the initial buzz of a new friendship to develop into a long-lasting relationship, there will need to be an incentive and this often comes when you support one another. For many, there is nothing more enriching than making a difference to someone’s life, from little things like sending them an article you think they’d find interesting to coaching them to achieve the next goal, to recommending them for a promotion.
What to do when a relationship ends
There will be times when a relationship is severely tested and it will be down to you to decide whether you want to maintain it, or not. If the relationship is worth saving, be brave and say how you feel and you may end up with a more honest, richer relationship than if you had avoided saying anything.
Equally, there are times when a relationship has naturally run its course. Perhaps one of you moves away – either geographically or in their thinking – and you no longer have those easy conversations that once cemented your bond. We are all continually evolving and sometimes, mentors, colleagues or leaders who we once valued highly for their expertise or wisdom no longer have as much to teach us. Or you may find that you end up having a disagreement or difference of opinion that you cannot move beyond.
There is no need to view these circumstances negatively as long as we can put to one side the powerful need to be liked, which many of us suffer from and can even drive us to maintain relationships that don’t serve us. Sometimes we need to move on and appreciate that in doing so, we will be making space for new relationships to evolve, which will bring a whole new richness and power our progress to the next level and beyond.
Now more than ever, authenticity is key. What’s important is to have people in your life who accept you for who you are, who you can be truly honest with, who will listen to you, and have your back unconditionally and vice versa. So own who you are and what you’re about; don’t pretend to be something you’re not. Be the best version of yourself and give people the chance to understand and value the truly powerful you.