Strong relationships are vital to a healthy career. When we can’t make real connections with others, whether in the industry or in the workplace, we lose key opportunities to share information, learn new ideas and make lasting friendships.
On the other hand, when we have a small group of close professional relationships, we’re able to get our ideas recognized and supported. We’re able to be successful leaders. We’re able to collaborate and innovate effectively to serve customers in the way they deserve.
This is an essential part of the Young Executives Organization (YEO). As the convenience store and petroleum industry continues to evolve, YEO is solely focused on creating a network for next-generation leaders that allows them to exchange personal experiences with peers in their age group.
Developing young leaders is vital to every company across our industry to ensure future growth and prosperity. In-person networking is an often overlooked, but crucial part of professional growth. The internet and social media have helped erode “people skills,” experts warn. And they’ve crept in so insidiously, we may not have realized it was happening.
The ‘normalizing’ of digital relationships has masked the weakness of many professionals’ face-to-face relationship-building skills. “This is especially true for younger professionals, who have grown up on a steady diet of online ‘friends’ and connections, and are less schooled in the art of face-to-face relationship-building.
The ability to build trusted professional relationships should never be left to chance. In addition to joining professional groups like YEO, there are several attitudes and skills that help leaders build solid relationships. These include:
CURIOSITY. This attitude helps you learn about people, giving you a better basis to build rapport with them. It drives you to understand what’s important to others. The more you learn from those around you, the more proprietary knowledge you’ll accumulate.
DEVELOPING TRUST. Trust reduces the inevitable frictions inherent in working with others, and it enables the creation of deep, resilient connections. To build trust, demonstrate that you are always acting with the other person’s best interests in mind. You need to meet commitments, keep confidences and answer questions without hedging. Make these qualities tangible by sometimes doing something for the other person that is clearly not in your interest, and telling people quickly and openly about mistakes or bad news. Prepare carefully for meetings to showcase competence.
INFLUENCE. Simply put, influence is the power to change or affect someone. If you have it, you’ll be able to convince others of your ideas and proposals and gain support for your goals. The foundation of influencing is having a strength of character and depth of knowledge that commands others to listen to you and follow your advice.
Building a career is complicated, and it’s easy for us to put off relationship development until ‘things settle down’ or we have more free time. The problem is, that day never comes. This is how people lose touch and how relationships atrophy. You have to carve some time out of your schedule, put it on your to-do list and commit to making it happen.