I’m currently teaching a course at the University of Washington in Training & Development and facilitated a great conversation about two things that can make a huge difference in your career success. The discussion was focused on the necessity of and process for conducting a thorough Needs Assessment before diving into design & development work of a training or development program. However, it can serve as two key cornerstones in building a successful career. They are simple ideas and one facilitates the other. #1 – Build & Nurture Your Relationships – business is about relationships. Think about how you build and nurture relationships in your personal life. What do you do? Chances are it’s something like:
- Take an interest – ask questions to get to know them. What do they enjoy? What’s important to them? What irritates them? What are their aspirations?
- Stay connected – reach out and check in to see how things are going. Send along an article, picture, etc… that you think they would find interesting. (By the way, you know this because you “took an interest”).
- Put their interests first – don’t just connect with people when YOU NEED something from them. Make deposits their emotional back accounts so when you need to make a withdrawal, you’ll still have a balance.
By building these solid relationships with leaders in your organization, you are more likely to fulfill the second item. #2 – Stay Connected To The Business – while your position in the organization clearly impacts with whom you may have an audience, (e.g., a training coordinator may not have a forum with the VP of Sales), you still are able to build relationships that facilitate other’s willingness to share information and help you understand what’s happening in the business. Ways to stay connected to the business are fairly simple as well:
- Read, read, read – whether it’s internal communications or marketplace trends. Read to understand the industry in which you work and the challenges that exist in the marketplace.
- Be curious and ask questions – as you build relationships within the organization, ask questions about what is happening in their world. Are there operating challenges? New competitors? Product development initiatives? How is the department managing compliance with a new regulation? What is the strategy for the next 3 years?
- Frame up issues relative to the impact on the business – build the business case for change by communicating the impacts on the business if something doesn’t change. For example, instead of presenting a proposal for a leadership training for mid-level managers due to high turnover rates. Talk about your concern that there is not a pipeline of strong leadership talent to support company growth plans. If the company doesn’t meet that plan, the company loses their foothold in the marketplace, margins and sales decrease and we’ll be talking about downsizing vs. growing.
If people recognize that you can establish long-standing relationships and understand the business, they can see how your decisions will be founded on choosing what’s right for the business and that, my friend, will set you up for career success!
Martha Duesterhoft is a Partner with PeopleResults. Follow her on Twitter @mduesterhoft or connect via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.