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From Strangers to Allies:

Mastering the Art of Building Effective Relationships

Script below for your reading pleasure

How effective are your relationships today?

Are your relationships built on need or built on value?

Are your relationships one-sided or more collaborative?

In this video blog, I want to take a moment to discuss how to not only build effective relationships but also how to maintain them!

My name is Paula Bell, also known as, The BA Martial Artist and the Career Ninja, as I leverage martial arts concepts to bring forth personal and professional results. I am here to discuss how to build and maintain effective relationships.

But before I get started, if you want more career development tips and strategies, click the subscribe and bell buttons to turn on notifications. Also, connect with me under the Community link on my channel.

>> Now it's time to enter the Dojo! <<

"Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much."

Wise words were spoken by Helen Keller.

And sometimes these wise words are forgotten because we are so busy with the everyday hustle and bustle. But when thinking of career development, having the right relationships is crucial. It is very hard to advance in your career without others being involved along the way. That's where your relationships become part of your network, whether that is for a reason, season, or lifetime.

So how do you build effective relationships?

  • You have to be clear on why you are building the relationship. This is not about using people, but rather about "value". Relationships should add value to all involved. When I say add value that means all party's lives are enhanced in some way because of the relationship.

Ask yourself:

  1. Why do I want to build this relationship?

  2. What do/will I bring to the relationship?

  3. What are my expectations?

  4. What are my boundaries?

It's great to build relationships, but it's critical you are clear on the reason you want said relationship and the value the relationship will add to your life, and how you add value to the other person.

  • It's important to build authentic relationships. I cannot emphasize this enough. Build relationships on trust and honesty. Let the other party see the "authentic" you. Do not create a facade of who you are. Dishonesty does not end well. We live in a world where there are many facades, especially on social media.

According to the poet William Shakespeare,

"If we are true to ourselves, we cannot be false to anyone.”

It starts with you being authentically you and then permeates to others. Be true to yourself and build authentic relationships.

  • Make sure to be clear on expectations. Setting expectations is critical in any relationship, but those expectations cannot be one-sided. Ensure you understand what you desire and what the other person desires. It's important to listen to understand, not just to respond. In addition, it's important to know what your boundaries are as well. Once you know those should be communicated, and there should be mutual respect of boundaries between the two parties.

  • Let's talk a little bit more about being respectful. Respect is the due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of others. First, you have to respect yourself before you can expect others to respect you. People will treat you how you allow them to treat you. Therefore, respect yourself first and make sure there is mutual respect in your relationships, which will help lead to trustworthiness.

  • Emotional Intelligence is important as well. I know emotional intelligence may be a buzzword, but it is really important to keep this in mind. Emotional intelligence is the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one's emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. So first, you have to take stock of your own emotions and how you express them and control them, and then you have to take time to empathize with the other party's emotions.

  • Sixth, every relationship has some level of flexibility and compromise. Being flexible means being able to adapt the way you think and communicate with those around you. And the ability to compromise means finding the middle ground between you and the other party's wishes, habits, or preferences. Let's be clear this does not mean the flexibility, and/or compromise is one-sided. All parties have to work together to understand where the other party is coming from and determine where flexibility and compromise should occur. This requires some active listening where you take time to "truly" listen to what the other person is saying without immediately forming a response in your mind. Take time to paraphrase what you heard which shows you are listening and ensures you understand what was communicated.

  • Seven, make sure to embrace diversity and create an inclusive environment with everyone you encounter. The beauty of diversity is that we are all different. Embracing each other's differences makes relationships not only engaging but stronger. You learn so much from others by embracing them. But that is not where it stops. People want to feel included, accepted, and safe when engaging with others. Create a safe environment for them. Make sure you create a space where people feel included and can be their authentic selves. It will help in building effective and potentially long-lasting relationships. People will want to work and engage with you.

  • Finally, number eight. You have spent time building effective relationships so be intentional about maintaining them. This is a piece that is easily overlooked and not given enough attention. For example, I find that many companies have a great way to recruit employees, but retaining them is more challenging and that is because once they are in the organization, the focus on onboarding, career development, career advancement, and inclusion is not always there. Therefore, employees get frustrated and leave. The same thing can happen with you building effective relationships. Don't stop at just building, but be INTENTIONAL on MAINTAINING them. You may not talk every day, month, year, or 5 years, but there are many relationships that ebb and flow because there is a sustainable connection there.

Now that you know how to build and maintain relationships let's discuss a little deeper the type of career relationships you can build:

  • Let's first start with finding a mentor. Mentoring relationships are VERY beneficial in your professional career. A mentor influences the personal and professional growth of a mentee. The mentee will set the expectations on what they desire from a mentor as I believe that the mentee drives the mentoring relationship. The mentee should have a clear understanding of what they are seeking out of the relationship and the frequency of the mentoring meetings. The mentee should come up with questions and scenarios to work through with the mentor. The mentor will learn a lot about the mentee through the relationships and through that knowledge will provide guidance and advice to help the mentee reach their goals. Also, the mentor will learn just as much from the mentee as the mentee will learn from the mentor. Many times reverse mentoring occurs as the relationship blossoms. In addition, the best mentoring relationships are those that are created organically. Don't force the relationship.

  • Another great relationship to form professionally is obtaining a sponsor. A sponsor is different than a mentor and is a powerful relationship to have. A sponsor elevates your visibility at work, places you in new roles, ensures you get credit, and defends you in your absence. You can request someone to sponsor or sometimes sponsors will see you and offer to be your sponsor. I have seen how sponsors help you advance in your career from my own experience.

I remember when I was applying for my first formal leadership position and I had about 5 sponsors who sent emails to the hiring manager. I did a great job in the interview and the hiring manager offered me the position that same day I interviewed and mentioned she didn't need to do reference checks because I had so many advocates sending emails on my behalf. I placed myself in environments for visibility and demonstrated the value I added to the organization and due to that I obtained sponsors (some I requested and some who requested me).

To this day I still have relationships with the majority of my sponsors, even some who have retired. I can't stress enough how having sponsors can change how you navigate your career.

  • Obtaining an advisor is another great relationship to build. A professional advisor is an experienced professional who will assist you with planning and achieving your career goals. Sometimes trying to gain clarity on where you want to go and how to get there can be overwhelming and confusing. an experienced professional who can help with this can help take away some of that stress. I help professionals achieve their career goals leveraging my decades of knowledge through my Accountability Membership Program™ (AMP) which is a 6-month commitment offered once a year currently and through resources like my Career Ninja Mastery Kit™ where I asked thought-provoking questions, tips, techniques, and ideas.

  • Finally building relationships with your peers is extremely important as well. Your peers can teach you so many things and can also be advocates for you. Now I know some of you may say, I don't trust my peers. My peers think I'm their competition. My peers will throw me under the bus. But not everyone is the same. You could potentially be missing out on successful and amazing relationships because of fear or horrible past experiences. Just like with any relationship, trust is built, so take your time with your peers, give them the benefit of the doubt, and start with positive intent until there is a reason you need to navigate that relationship differently.

Now that you know the types of career relationships you can build let's discuss where you can go to build relationships for your career. There are many places you can go to build relationships that help you personally and professionally. For example, when I started training in martial arts, I started as a way to spend time with my twins; however, I had no idea the relationships I would build in the dojo. I have relationships that will last me a lifetime. Relationships that have not only built me up personally but also professionally. The connections made in the dojo provided support in authoring my first book, providing references to reach professional milestones, sharing my business services and more. You just never know how certain environments will foster the ability to build relationships that add value to your life, and you add value to theirs.

So here are some environments where you can start building relationships. Remember people are in your life for a reason, season or a lifetime so make sure you are clear about where they fit as you begin to meet people.

  1. First up is, networking events. Don't shy away from attending networking events. And in this case, I have that professional and community networking events are great events to meet new people and get your name out there. I highly recommend you have your elevator pitch down and contact information easily accessible to start making connections. You can find different networking events in your area through your organization, on LinkedIn, Community Event pages in your area, word of mouth, and professional forums you may be a part of. You do have to be intentional about finding opportunities as they will not always come to you.

  2. The second is professional conferences. When you have opportunities to attend professional conferences through your job, professional organizations, or any that may interest you make the investment in yourself if there is no other option to pay for it. The yield on that investment may not be immediate, but you will reap a harvest on what you sow as long as you use the knowledge obtained. And when you go to these conferences take some time to network and meet new people. Don't just stay within your comfort zone. Get comfortable being uncomfortable, that is where the growth comes from.

  3. I briefly mentioned this earlier but joining Professional Associations can expand your network and help you build relationships in a very focused way. These associations will most likely align with your career aspirations and will help you build very intentional relationships that will help not only with your career advancement but also building effective relationships. Leveraging Alumni Associations of colleges/universities/high schools can be very effective in building relationships. Individuals in these groups have a shared affinity and can really help you in your career and also in your personal life. Don't take for granted staying connected to those you met at these institutions or making new relationships.

  4. Lastly, Online Forums & Discussion Boards are another great source for building effective relationships. These relationships may start out slow as you are meeting individuals that you may not know, but engaging in forums can foster new relationships that can add value to your life for years to come, and vice versa.

Now that you have built relationships let's discuss how you maintain them because as stated before this is the part that can be overlooked and needs intentional effort.

  1. Set aside time to connect. Make an intentional effort to put time on your calendar at some sort of frequency that works for all parties to stay connected. Mentoring, sponsors, and professional advisors may already have a frequency during the engagement, but after the engagement, you may still want to stay connected so make sure you intentionally put time on your calendar to stay connected.

  2. Be responsible and reliable. Make sure when you commit to meet that your word is bond and that you are reliable. People don't like their time wasted and you shouldn't either. So be respectful of the other's time and make sure you honor your commitments.

  3. Recognize and celebrate those you have built relationships with. Make sure to appreciate them and when appropriate recognize them for their greatness. Take a moment to just stop and appreciate each other.

I hope you have found these tips and strategies beneficial for building and maintaining effective relationships.

Now is the time to be the relationship, Ninja, I know you can be.

So go forth and conquer!

Until the next time,

The Career Ninja is signing off!


P.S. If you are looking to determine how you should gain clarity and focus on where you want to go in your career, my “Career Ninja Mastery Kit™” is the tool for you.

P.P.S. If you are working to advance your career and and you need additional assistance on updating your resume I offer an online self-paced resume course and resume review services working with me directly. If you need additional help with interview preparation I offer an online self-paced interview preparation and execution course and interview preparation services working with me directly.

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