No matter what your personal or organizational goals are, relationships will be vital to your success.  But how many of us take time to think about relationship-building as we make plans for our next venture?

It’s been said, “Relationship is the foundation of accomplishment.”  Make relationship-building your leadership superpower.  Here’s how:

Start by being intentional about which relationships to develop.  What are you up to (or up against)?  Who’s done this before and can show you the way?  Who needs to be “on-board” for your plans to succeed?  Some areas to consider:

  • Your value stream:  who are your key customers, suppliers and ‘gate-keepers’. If you could deepen a connection with one or two people this year, whom would you choose?
  • Your org chart: how well do you understand the needs and expectations of your boss and your boss’s boss?  Who amongst your direct reports will be pivotal to your team’s success this year?  If you could be ‘on-the-same-page’ with a few people above and below you in your organization, whom would you choose?
  • Your “gemba” (the place where work actuallyoccurs): who has the greatest influence over the way people on the frontlines think, talk and perform?  If you were to engage a few of these ‘influencers’ in support of your plans, whom would you choose?
  • Your career: Who needs to be ready to replace you in order for you to be promoted?  Who holds the job you aspire to?  Who can you mentor in order to repay the debt you owe to your own mentors? 

Building relationships doesn’t have to be a “touchy-feely” exercise.  Keep it simple and practical:

  • Start by holding the intention.  Simply saying, “My work would go better if I spoke with _____ more often” will make a difference.
  • Make time on your calendar.  Don’t count on happenstance to bring you together with people – invite them to coffee or lunch; get out of your office and go for a walk with the intention of shaking hands, learning names, and meeting folks.  
  • Ask good questions.  Relationships progress through conversation – the more I know about someone, the easier it is to start the next conversation.  Conversation requires curiosity – ask open-ended questions and listen to what people have to say. Here’s a list to get you started.
  • Give it time.  Relationships deepen with trust and comfort – and those take time to develop.  Don’t be daunted if your first few forays fall flat.
  • Get started now!  What’s something you could do right – no matter how small a step – towards creating time and conversation?

Leadership happens through people.  No matter what you’re up to, relationships will be key to your success.  Don’t leave relationship building to chance – be intentional about it!  Spend as much time thinking about whoas you do what, how, where and when.

Interested in learning more?  Ready to make relationship your super-power?  We’re ready to help.  

About the author: Andy Erickson is a founder and principal consultant at Humanus Solutions, a consulting firm specializing in people-centric leadership. He can be reached at

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