Building Powerful Relationships At Work

In order to not just grow in a job, but to get the job….

In order to not just grow in a job, but to get the job as well, we need to know how to build such relationships.

Research shows that your ability to empathise with, connect with, and influence others is a pivotal skill for your success. But many people struggle with this approach.

Folks who know how to build successful work relationships talk about 3 important traits they have developed in themselves:

A clear purpose: Our relationships are based on how we are connected, related, and specifically relevant to one another. Rather than leave this open to assumption, we must develop the confidence and the skill to discuss and establish a clear basis and intent for their relationships. Having a shared understanding of why the relationship matters provides a critical foundation that can be built upon and used as a touchstone when difficulties inevitably arise.

An understanding of the type of relationship needed: Just as it’s important to recognise that relationships need a clear basis, it’s also important to realize that relationships can take many forms. It’s helpful to think about relationships along a spectrum. On one end of the spectrum are transactional relationships, where a minimum level of interaction, interdependence, or familiarity is at play. As an example, think about stopping into a Starbucks store to buy a cup of coffee. Even if you stop by the same store on a weekly basis, a simple transaction can fulfill the needs of the relationship.

Along the middle of the spectrum are interdependent relationships. These include a higher degree of expectation in areas such as shared goals, shared knowledge, and mutual respect. Examples of interdependent relationships include members of surgical and post-operative care teams or sales engineers and manufacturing teams.

Still further along the spectrum are transformational relationships. Transformational relationships are characterised by the level of influence, mutuality, and vulnerability that is allowed and nurtured. In these relationships, we need to be sufficiently curious and open to the other’s point of view, and to the possibility that their beliefs will directly impact our own. Each person needs to be willing to hold the other person accountable to higher standards, even when it’s uncomfortable.

It’s important to remember that no one type of relationship is better or more important than another. The key is to become adept at identifying and developing the type of relationship that best fits a given circumstance.

A commitment to pursuing the relationship even when times get tough: Powerful relationships do not emerge, nor are they destroyed overnight; they are robust and resilient. Each person remains mindful of the overall significance of the relationship and is willing to give the other person the benefit of the doubt. In such relationships you value the same above other disagreements on any one issue. You have to remember why the relationship is important and always assume positive intent. There is lot of value in discussing future conflict with your colleagues. Once you agree on the type of relationship you will co-create and why it matters, you can focus on how you would stay committed, even during disagreements.

Identify the five relationships that have the most influence on your professional success. For each relationship, ask yourself three questions:

  • Have you and the other person discussed and agreed on a clear purpose for your relationship?
  • What type of relationship (transactional, interdependent, or transformational) is most appropriate?
  • How does commitment or the lack of commitment show up in the relationship?

Now that you’ve reflected on your relationships, consider which ones need work. Are there specific actions you can take to strengthen the relationship? Taking the time to strengthen your weaker relationships will help you deliver strong results even in difficult circumstances.


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