The landscape was snow covered and the roads indiscernible on the December day my family and I moved into our new house in western New Jersey. When we finally (gingerly) made it to our new street, I put my foot full down on the gas for an uphill battle with the pitched un-ploughed driveway and the car answered the call and succeeded in landing us safely at the garage. The moving van, however, was a lost cause.

Furniture (and any semblance of something to sleep on) arriving at the house in the snowstorm was a hard no. We spent the first night in a nearby hotel instead.

Twenty-four years later, the For Sale sign alerted our neighbors that we were serious. We were leaving behind our home and friends that had become interwoven into our everyday moments, to move on to the new life-chapter that we had always claimed was on the horizon. It was now time to say, “goodbye.”

Culture and Consequences

Think about the times you’ve had to say “goodbye” to a colleague, a boss, an employee, or a customer. There were likely instances where it was difficult and maybe where it left you with a bit of sadness or a longing not to let go. Conversely consider those situations where the goodbye was a breeze and a welcome relief!

Our work life completely interconnects the people around us, and how we interrelate has consequences.

A culture that encourages positive relationship building within the work environment is the path to engaged employees. A company with engaged employees is more likely to emanate a customer-first culture, which in turn can lead to better products and services that drive customer satisfaction. A consequence of this type of culture is a group of people that generally feel happy and committed, which is a healthy result to gain. But more practically, the outcome of all this goodwill is revenue growth and customer advocacy for the business.

Building relationships of this caliber takes intentional effort. As technologists, we are grounded in science, metrics, models, and processes. Emphasis on the relationship angle is organically an art, and for process-oriented individuals the soft side of this equation can appear to be a throwaway when prioritized against operational architecture, execution, and delivery.

In my experience though, relationship building follows a “workflow” just as logical as any business process. We are talking about networking with purpose.

A Relationship Run Book

Creating genuine connections in our business life can be broken down into a simple repeatable formula; think of this as your networking Run Book:

  • Seek to Connect: Step one is to get to know someone new. This can be within your workplace, your customer, or an individual in your industry that is not currently a connection. Years ago, I joined a professional organization where I knew absolutely no one. Every in-person meeting I attended I had a goal of leaving with at least two new connections. Guess what, in time I was no longer alone, I had a room full of new meaningful relationships with some pretty intriguing and supportive people.
  • Be clear on your motive: The point is to learn and to give back. This is not about directly asking the other person to do something for you. This is “give to get.” One of the mistakes people often make is to go into a conversation with their ask for help (e.g., Can you help me, I’m looking for a new role). You don’t need to do that! If you start the conversation with the intent to learn and be supportive of the other person, they will almost always end the conversation with an offer of what they can do for you.
  • Listen first: The relationship doesn’t start with you; it starts with a sincere desire to understand the person in front of you. Ask good questions and listen. This goes hand in hand with step 2.
  • Give it Time: Make space for the effort required for networking and fostering new work relationships. Being busy is not a valid excuse for putting off syncing with another person, everyone is busy – we all are in the same boat. Find 15 minutes to connect on a call, take an hour to grab coffee, lunch or whatever forum works for you both. The critical factor is human contact. Emails do not qualify!
  • Care: Yes, you need to care for a minute about the person with whom you are connecting. This means to put yourself aside and realize this person is just as special as you believe you are – there’s a human underneath the “worker” that has a personal life, aspirations, concerns, struggles, and great stories just the same as we all do.

Looking out for the other person, sharing business experiences, offering insights, and learning from them should be the call to action. How this relationship gains both parties an advantage somewhere in the process cannot be scripted, but it almost always happens.

Sharing Sushi

I recently flew to DC to have a dinner meeting with one of my customers. The CIO, arguably a guy with deeply pressing priorities, has always made time for our yearly meetup. I got to the table first and had a few minutes to consider how to tell him I was going to be leaving the company supporting him. As he and his VP sat down, we quickly jumped into all the greetings and typical business pleasantries one would expect.

I reminded them that a year prior they had convinced me to try my first Sushi roll, a step far out of my comfort zone. We had some laughs and I promptly agreed to let them decide my food choices for the evening once again. I knew more undiscovered fish were coming my way.

The business partnership had prospered over the past few years and our conversation effortlessly flowed between new work opportunities, family updates, and my reaction to the oyster course. Each of us had put consistent and intentional time into our working connection and the results were increased business and sincere camaraderie.

When it came time to share my departure news my customer could not have been more gracious and supportive. It was a hard “goodbye.”

This was one instance of many in the last few months, where the realization that a parting, at least for a while, was in the cards and brought about some difficult farewells.

This is as it should be – these relationships with my fellow employees, partners, customers, and all my colleagues across the industry have been purposeful. The motives behind the relationships have been to learn and give. Listening and appreciating each person in front of me has been fostered and where reciprocated, given consistent care.

Genuine relationship building has a consequence, and from my purview, mutual benefits and opportunity in various forms have almost always been the outcome.

No matter what career path you take, in keeping to the networking Run Book and approaching relationships with your positive motives, time, appreciation, and a genuine concern for those in your orbit, value is gained. I can certainly attest to this fact!

Saying “goodbye” should be hard. When it is, you know you have cultivated your relationships right.

Tag/s:Empathy, Personal Development,