Sowing the Seeds
Our latest podcast (episode #22, 'Sowing the Seeds') discusses the importance of building and nurturing relationships at work, not just with colleagues you see the most but also with those you see the least. We look at the importance, not just of your network but also of their network and how this can be equally relevant to you.
How much effort do you put into growing and maintaining relationships in your workplace? Personal relationships, that is, not just the nodding ones you might have with colleagues who work, head down, at the other end of the office? Have you ever considered how important it might be to nurture, and maintain, relationships with your colleagues which might involve conversations, however short, which go beyond the usual business of the office?
It's easy to slip into the belief that the working relationship with a colleague is 'enough' and will continue as it is. But is it enough? Is that being lazy? Some working relationships can indeed stand without too much attention. But sometimes, the relationship needs a little more, and you must do a little more to nurture it.
What if you find yourself in a situation where you need a little help and may need to draw on your relationships with your colleagues. Perhaps you need them to go a little above and beyond. Will they be prepared to do that if you don't have some level of personal relationship, however minor, which stretches beyond the usual conversation of the workplace? Maybe you haven't spoken to somebody for ages, and now you have to ask for their help. How would that make you feel?
Building an eco-system
Think of your work colleagues as your 'ecosystem'. You are there to help them, and they are there to help you. But this is much more likely to be viable if you already get on well. It doesn't take much to nurture the seeds of something which can become more than just a 'transactional' relationship.
You need them, and they need you, but the transactional to-ing and fro-ing will work better if you know a little about each other. You don't have to be best buddies with all your colleagues, but it never hurts to ask, "how are you today?" or "did you have a nice weekend?"
Polite small talk? Maybe, but you will also learn a little more about them and what makes them tick whilst also sowing the seeds of your network, your backup, your 'eco-system'.
Rude and intrusive?
But what about colleagues who are senior to you in the workplace. Isn't it rude and intrusive to poke around in their personal lives? Well, you're not asking them for intimate personal details! You're just building a connection, a little bit of friendly rapport.
It's true that some people are more insular than others and would consider a personal question asked out of context in the workplace to be inappropriate. Still, others will appreciate a bit of 'water-cooler' conversation. If you keep your discussion light, you should be able to avoid any awkwardness. Each situation will have its dynamics, and you must judge it as you find it.
Human beings benefit from a sense of connection with each other, no matter how senior or junior.
What if you have to have a working relationship with someone not of your choosing? Such as a mentor/mentee relationship. You may consider setting a specific time frame for this relationship, six months, for example. Mentorship is a two-way relationship, with the mentor getting as much out of it as the mentee. Each can learn something from the other. Often, the different perspectives can help both parties see things slightly differently and find a better way to deal with complex situations.
Terse and transactional
What has become increasingly common over the past few years is for people of all levels in the workplace to be perhaps a bit terse and transactional in their emails. Email is, by its very nature, a short and fast means of communication. But it doesn't have to be cold, and it doesn't take much extra effort to add in a "how are you?" or "I hope all is well" to soften the tone.
The importance of indirect connections
Indirect connections can be just as meaningful as direct ones. Relationships beyond the network at your current workplace are essential to nurture because you never know where they might lead. Perhaps you're looking for a new job, and someone you have known for a while recommends you to someone they've known.
So it's not just, "Who do I know?" but also, "Who do they know?" If somebody outside your organisation can validate you and your abilities, it gives you a far greater reach and can open up myriad opportunities. As much as 85% of new jobs are found through networks and networking.
Water your seeds…
So whilst we agree that nurturing relations with our direct colleagues and the vast network outside our work is vital in many ways, some people find this more straightforward than others.
If you find it a struggle, we suggest you do it little by little. Our advice here at noodle is to set aside 15 minutes a week to do a little work on your 'eco-system', your network. Send somebody an article you think they might be interested in or details of a podcast episode, and ask another how they are getting on with the project they are currently working on.
You may have sown the seeds in the past, but don't forget to water them in the present.
Find out more about how to communicate beyond your immediate workplace at The Accidental Manager.
Here you'll find five-minute noodles on networking, influencing, and communicating that will help you feel more confident in building and maintaining a thriving eco-system.
In our associated podcast (episode #22, 'Sowing The Seeds' ), we discuss the theory of interpersonal relations FIRO (Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation) introduced by William Schutz. FIRO posits that all human beings require inclusion, attention and control, to a greater or lesser degree.
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