Stay in touch
Do you have a friend that seems to ring you only when they want something and they throw a veil over it as ‘keeping in touch’? Professional relationships are no different to this. There are many ways to keep in touch in a genuine manner that shows care for the other and allows for an ongoing dialogue that seems uninterrupted even though physically you may only speak a couple of times a year. Staying in touch can include a random card, email to say hi, picking up the phone on a regular basis, sharing a book that you think is interesting. Putting something in the real mail with a stamp and everything.
Share your knowledge
Let go of any thoughts of scarcity you may have regarding your knowledge. Knowledge is universal. Essentially there is nothing new ‘out there’. By sharing the knowledge you have your contribution to universal knowledge will benefit people in numbers far greater than just those few people you share it with. You will never know where it might end up.
Be prepared to share what you know with those in your professional circle. Watch for your thoughts that might be restricting you in this. Thoughts like ‘I don’t know enough’ or ‘they might not be interested’. Who are you not to share your knowledge? You never know what is going on in the other person’s life.
Create relationships that last
When entering into a professional relationship you can view it as just a transaction for the moment or you can view it as a longer term proposition that you are going to invest in. They are your heart beats so how do you want to use them – to create quick, shallow relationships that don’t hold much meaning or longer term relationships that weave a rich tapestry over time where knowledge and support are shared during the many changes life can bring.
Introduce your networks
Just like sharing your knowledge be generous with your networks. Connect people. Listen for what people are looking for and don’t be shy in connecting the people you know. Self -doubt might creep in here too. What if they don’t like each other? What if it doesn’t work out? What if it does??
Once you have made the introduction, if you have made it with the best intentions and for clear reasons, it is up to the others to take it from there. You are not responsible for the outcome. In most situations people will appreciate the effort you have made.
In addition to your knowledge and networks just be generous, with your time, energy and enthusiasm for life in general. Too often at professional gatherings discussion can move into doom and gloom and the ‘ain’t life tough’ discussions get started. Don’t join in. Generously offer another topic that reflects what’s good about being alive on the planet today, in this moment. This can take courage because often the pull into group think can be strong, resist the temptation to conform to group norms, they can retard your own growth.
Often when in a professional environment things can get way too serious. And when things get too serious they can get stupid. Lighten up, laugh. Help others to see that all is not that serious. Often when you step away and see the lighter side new possibilities open up. Be the person who isn’t afraid to take a ‘seriousity’ check. Ask, are we taking things too seriously here? Once again it might seem an unconventional approach but conventional approaches can stifle fabulous ideas and growth.
Ask for what you want
Social convention once again can have us convinced that it is impolite to ask for what we want. This can be amplified in the professional arena. And yet when we think about it – people just love to help. This can create a sense of self-esteem for them and they feel they have contributed to something.
All too often our inner chatter prevents us from asking for something. Our imagination conjures up all sorts of not so good outcomes. Or what will people think of me. We may still be adopting some of the parenting we were given – ‘it’s not polite to ask’. Is this parenting serving you any more in your grown up professional life?
Asking for what you want is a habit, one that can be developed. Ask for the support or help you might need. Ask for the understanding that might help you to shift to that next level. Ask for that introduction, that piece of work the next opportunity. It won’t happen if you don’t ask.
Be clear about your expertise
Sometimes our ego can get in our way and before we know it we have said yes to something that really isn’t in our area of expertise. And then we panic! Being clear about what your expertise is can help steer you clear from these situations and help build strong professional relationships. When a client calls you or a colleague asks for help they will do so in the knowledge that you will either do a fantastic job or you will let them know you don’t do that kind of work.
This can feel somewhat counter-intuitive, especially if you are starting your own business. Thoughts around scarcity can lead to the urge sometimes is to say yes to everything and then try and work it out later. In the long term however your honesty and integrity will bring those people back to you.
When the opportunity arises to collaborate with other professionals, grab it. The cross-pollination of ideas and energies will create greater outcomes than individuals working in isolation. Look for opportunities to collaborate. Trust issues may arise and these are worthwhile examining. Are they real? Are they holding you back or should there be a genuine concern?
In collaboration we can develop new skills, learn how to build something brand new, sharpen our edge and stretch our professional capability.
Listen from the other person’s perspective
We all have our own maps of reality. It is impossible to completely understand the other’s map of reality and so we have to rely on our senses to understand the other’ perspective as clearly as possible. We communicate through filters and that is why we never know what another person has heard and therefore, what it is that we have actually communicated. Therefore the meaning of our communication is the response we get.
To create exceptional relationships with our colleagues and clients it is essential that we watch and listen for the other person’s responses. This allows us to ensure we deliver what they want and not what we think they want, or think they should have according to our map.
If we can understand that each person has their own map of reality then there can be no argument just different labels given to the same thing. There can be no ‘wrong’ just degrees of clarity.
As a member of a profession, get involved in that profession. Contribute. Volunteer. Get to know what is important and be involved in contributing to what is important. Rather than being one of those who sit on the sidelines and condemn and criticise the professional body you may be affiliated with get involved, let them know what you think, volunteer to be a part of whatever is going on. Write an article, present a paper, vote. Volunteering can often lead to professional exposure, a greater insight into what is happening on a larger scale and the creation of new skills.
Volunteering also puts you in touch with like-minded professionals and help to increase your own networks.
Remember to be grateful for the opportunities that come your way. If a client invites you to work with them on a project, refers you to another client or provides an endorsement take the time to thank them –properly.
Publicly thank a co-worker, don’t be shy about expressing your thanks. We often find time to criticise and tend to forget to find time to praise, thank, recognise the efforts of others.
People in general may forget what you say but they will remember how they felt in your presence.
Be grateful also for the time you have on this planet to explore your talents and work in a profession that you love and can contribute to.
Communication happens on many levels
We cannot not communicate. We are always communicating. Even silence is a communication. Every gesture, movement, breath etc. is a communication. Our business card, website, linked-in profile all say something about us.
As a professional communication is the key to developing exceptional relationships with colleagues, clients and the people in our networks in general. It is important that we continue to develop our communication capability and not rely on old patterns and methods of communicating.
When was the last time you refreshed your communication capability. What professional development have you undertaken in the last couple of years in this essential area of expertise. Technology in communication is growing and developing all the time have you kept up. We refresh our mobile phones and other gadgets on a regular basis, what about our communication technology.
Professional relationships thrive on sharing and communicating our desires, dreams, visions and concerns. Trust is a key to maintaining these relationships and a key element of trust is being able to hold a confidence. To resist the temptation to share something entrusted to us in confidence to just one or two people – that won’t hurt will it.
Sometimes knowing something that others don’t know can be a burning hole and we just want to tell someone else. This can often be because we want to be seen or thought of as important, we are looking for others to value us. It is similar to basing our happiness on what other people think of us. We look for approval out there, when really this is an inside job. So don’t be tempted with the short term gain of a minute’s admiration from someone that you know something they don’t. go for the longer term inner joy that is felt by holding someone’s precious confidence that they have entrusted with you.
Remember – the Earth is a small planet
Have you ever had the experience where you have gone on an overseas holiday and you randomly bump into your next door neighbour in the market in Italy and you realise WOW the world is really small. These types of coincidences happen all the time.
This is a timely reminder that the professional world is just as small. As the Buddha said ‘You never who your mother was in a past life’. Over the course of our professional life you will never know when you might meet someone again and in what circumstance. You don’t know who knows whom or who they might know in future. With this in mind the tips presented here will help with the development of strong, supportive, long term relationships which will serve you, those you meet and those who are eventually touched by your presence in the world.