Updated: Oct 12
Build relationships first. Then do business.
The one thing I have noticed consistently with all my business coaching clients is that the most successful ones, the ones who appear to find things "easy" are the ones that have built strong relationships and networks in their careers and businesses.
Strong relationships will sustain you through a crisis.
Strong relationships have not just sustained my coaching business but helped me grow it during Covid-19 lockdown. But here's the thing - you need to have built and nurtured your relationships long before you need them - and that takes time, consistent effort, truly understanding what the other party needs in the relationship, and delivering on that value.
Covid-19 shone a spotlight on my relationships - personal and professional. Some have faired well, some not so well. If I am honest, my most personal relationships are the ones that have taken a beating during Covid-19. On reflection, I really wish I had applied to some of my personal relationships, what I intuitively apply to my business relationships - a philosophy of serving my network and seeking to build strong connections based on what's important to them, to both of us, before focussing on what's important to me (the sell).
We are all trying to sell something.
We are all trying to sell something which means we are always trying to get someone to buy (do) something - adopt our idea, accept and validate us, take our business card, buy from our menu of products and services, put us forward for the next big promotion. When we only focus on what we want (to sell) right now, when it becomes about an expedient short term gain, it's so easy to forget about the long term value of the relationship.
When we build the relationship first, (invariably) the business follows.
An informal mentoring relationship grew my coaching business during Covid19
8 years ago I developed an informal mentoring relationship with a young mining engineer in the company I was working with at the time. We were in different departments and indirectly worked on a few projects together. After one meeting she asked if we could meet for coffee and some career guidance. This chat evolved into mentoring conversations every couple months about work, career development, self-leadership and assumptions about how life works. A year or so later we both left the company and although we went in different directions, we stayed in loose touch.
One day we were catching up and I casually mentioned a group self-leadership coaching programme I was developing. A week later she called me to say she and 9 colleagues wanted to sign up to my career coaching programme! They all attended the group-coaching sessions for a period of 6 months. That is where the story could end - but it's not.
Over that time I became close to several of the participants and 4 of them signed up for one-on-one coaching. Two of them referred me collectively to five other clients, and one of those clients co-opted me onto the Women in Mining South Africa (WIMSA) committee where I have served as a volunteer ever since. Since volunteering on the WIMSA committee my network has grown exponentially, my positioning in my network has become more defined, and I have worked with well over 40 clients that are men and women in mining.
This year during Covid19 lockdown, I signed up 23 new clients, 17 of whom I can track back to my informal mentoring relationship 8 years ago - a relationship that at the time I never could have predicted would turn into one of the most valuable relationships in my business.
There are three key relationship lessons that come to mind from this story.
Never assume that it's only people with more experience than you that will be able to make valuable introductions for you.
Take the time to get to know people in your network and invest in your relationships before you need them.
Treat every relationship as a long term investment.
Think about this:
Which relationships can you draw on to support you and how can you support them in return?
Are there relationships in your network that you need to nurture more intentionally?
How could you go about strengthening your social capital in your network?
Who are the people in your network who can make introductions that will broaden the diversity of your network?
"One genuine new relationship is worth a fistful of business cards." Susan Cain
You may want to read:
There are many other people in my network that have been instrumental in my business thriving over the last few years and they will all be featured in blogs over the next few weeks.
I thrive on conversations and would love to engage with you on how you are managing yourself and your career like a business.
I believe "managing your career like a business" means having insight on where you want to go in your career, the agility and resilience to change track when necessary, competence to navigate transition points, and self-awareness to manage yourself. I help you do that through one-on-one coaching, CV and LinkedIn profile writing, topic-specific workshops and a suite of blogs and other materials available on my website. Want more information? Drop me a message and I will get back to you asap.
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