This is a continuation of my last article. If you missed it, read it here

The professional development plan you prioritise depends on the phase of your life and career. As a way of continuation, the next item on the forms of professional development you need this year should relationships.

In your professional development, relationships are very instrumental.

Again, depending on where you are in your leadership and career journey, developing relationship goals can start with simply looking at where you are headed, where power resides and who has influence or potential influence over your rising in your journey.

Your goal is to establish enduring, inclusive relationships with the people, the companies, the customers, the employees, team mates and community that are beneficial to your leadership and career growth.

This is key considering that relationship is now the essential professional competency if you are an employee at any level. Relationships are now the most important tool for intelligence gathering. It is the tool you can use to glean valuable knowledge in your industry. It is a critical strategy to gain visibility and credibility in your target industry. Trust me, it can be a primary technique used to find new jobs, change careers or land your feet after a layoff.

You need to start (re)looking at relationships as a leadership and career advancement strategy if you’ve not, so you can become the natural choice in your industry.

For example, if you work in a company, your direct boss or line manager has some element of power in your promotion because you report to him or her. Other times, it is beyond your direct boss. There are other people within that company who make critical decisions about your career that you currently may not be aware of.

Your job is to find who has influence over your rising and design your own strategy for developing a close connection with them.

Whether you are a student, working in a firm or trying to run a profitable business, you will have thousands of encounters with people, just know that relationships are important and it is your responsibility to maximise them.

Part of your professional development plan for this year therefore should be to create, cultivate and capitalise on each key relationship and opportunities. Below are some key considerations:

Key 1 – The Key to building relationships is TRUST. To be successful, you must understand how trust develops. Trust building is the most important relationship building activity and the essential ingredients of building trust is your character and competence. To build lasting relationships, always think of demonstrating your character and competence in every encounter.

You need learn to teach people that you can be trusted. For example, if you promise to deliver something on Tuesday, do it. That is how to teach someone that you will do what you say. Nobody will help you until they trust you.

Key 2 – The best relationships are built on GIVING. Giving here is about giving your competence.

Think about ways you can start to spend more time with the key people of influence, and GIVE value to them. And you can do this in many ways:

For example, serving in the same committee with key people of influence is a way to teach your contacts that you are competent.

You can also show your competence in ways such as taking a relevant certification in your industry and sharing that certificate on LinkedIn. Anytime you win awards from your organisation or industry, put it in a visible place at your office, share the story on LinkedIn. You are teaching your contact that you have competence.

Another way is requesting to take leaders out for lunch (plan to pay the bills) and when you do, ask a few questions and listen to them share about their own journey to learn from them about latest developments in the industry but be also prepared to share your ideas that will be valuable to them or the organisation.

You can also share articles that quotes you, newspaper or blog posts that has your name or even a conference material that shows you are speaking. It is a conscious and subtle way of teaching your contact that you are competent.

Take every opportunity to place yourself in a visible role so that industry leaders can experience your competence first hand. You don’t have to make noise, just be strategic and being strategic simply means targeting the right people.

In my experience, it is the combination of character and competence that builds trust which is key to long term relationships

Looking deeper, your relationship goals may be more about connecting with people within other companies in your field. But remember, your purpose of building relationships should be clear – to add value and to learn!

So, your question this year: who do I want to meet in my field? What value do I have to give to them?

Start by writing down a list of people on your goal/vision note (I’m assuming you have one), then think of ways to connect with them by giving value.

You may be one relationship away from your next opportunity.

Rarely do relationships start by mistakes, and even if they do, relationships thrive by being intentional.

I’ll stop here today, but let’s play this accountability game:

Tell me at least 1 person in your field you want to build a relationship with this year.

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