We’ve all heard the saying,  “It’s not what you know, but who you know”. This is great if you live for meeting new people, but what if making new connections, networking and building new relationships just doesn’t come easily for you? Will a lack of networking or relationship building skills hold you back in your career? And what can you do to improve your relationship building skills? In this article, we’ll discuss the 7 most essential steps to building good relationships at work so you don’t end up missing out on great opportunities.

But first…

Why are relationship building skills so critical to your success?

In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey talks about the concept of interdependence. He explains that through our development of personal and interpersonal effectiveness, we move progressively through a “Maturity Continuum,” going from dependence to independence then finally to interdependence.

The 3 stages

Everyone starts off in a stage of dependence. As a young child, you are completely dependent on others. From there you then develop gradually through to a stage of independence. At which point you’re able to take care of yourself. You become inner-directed and self-reliant.

Finally, Covey explains that as we mature, we reach a point when we realize that everything is interdependent, in nature as well as in society. 

Someone who is interdependent is independent, self-reliant and capable, but also realizes that they can achieve far more by working together with others than they can alone.

The benefits of relationship building 

Sharing Kills and knowledge

Your ability to build networks and effective relationships will significantly increase your levels of success. If you can build lots of great relationships, then the more people you’ll have in your network. 

This means you’ll have more access to new knowledge, different expertise, potential advisors and opportunities for learning and collaboration. 

If two heads are better than one, then more heads must be even better. 

Better teamwork 

How effectively do you work as part of a team? While you might prefer to work alone, at some point in your career you’re going to have to work as part of a team. Whether you’re part of a project team or you need to work with external suppliers, your ability to work as part of a team will determine how smoothly things go, or not. 

Developing effective relationship building skills will lead to better teamwork and more effective collaborations. Regardless of who you have to work with. 

More enjoyable days at work

Have you ever had a job that you didn’t love, but you really got on with your colleagues? 

Good relationships with colleagues can be the difference between a terrible day and a day that’s ok, even a good day. From supporting each other through challenges, to a bit of fun competition to simply having a laugh from time to time.

The benefit of building good relationships with work colleagues can’t be underestimated. According to a Gallup Study  women who have a best friend at work are:

  • Less likely to be actively looking for job opportunities
  • Are more connected with their coworkers, knowing what is expected of them and trusting their integrity and ethics
  • More likely to rate their own, their team’s and their organization’s performance more excellently
  • More likely to take risks that could lead to innovation
  • More likely to have a positive experience during the day, such as enjoying what they do, making more progress and getting recognized for successes
  • Less likely to report having a negative experience during the day such as worry, stress and feeling tired

Not to mention studies have also consistently shown that having a best friend at work drives better performance for women and men. 

What can you do to improve your relationship building skills and how can you improve your relationships at work? 

Here are the 7 essential steps for building good relationships at work.

Improve your communication skills 

Think about the best managers and most inspiring leaders that you ’ve come across in your career. What comes to mind? Do they have any qualities or attributes in common? Personally, the leaders that I’ve found most inspiring have been those who were open, clear, direct and honest in their communication style and approach. 

It’s no wonder that communication is such a critical leadership skill. Through great communication, you can inspire, encourage, motivate, drive people forward, bring people together and influence.

Communication is the key to all good relationships and is a critical need in humans. If you don’t develop good communication skills, then it’s going to be practically impossible to build good relationships at work or otherwise. Remember, good communication skills are more than just about what you say and how you say it and there are plenty of things you can do to improve in this area. Taking the time to improve your communication skills will go a long way when it comes to building better relationships in all aspects of your life. 

Avoid preconceptions, assumptions, and prejudgment 

Ever heard of RBF? If not, then you definitely would have been told not to judge a book by it’s cover. In short, Don’t approach people with preconceived notions or assumptions about who they are or what they’re like. 

Just because someone might seem a little grumpy or off, doesn’t mean that building a relationship with them will be super difficult.

Making assumptions about how the interaction will go before you even know the person will not only make building new relationships and networking more daunting for you, but you might just get off on the wrong foot, unnecessarily.  

Give people the opportunity to tell you and show you who they are and try to avoid assuming the worst. 

While this may not be easy, It’s definitely worth it, when you consider how much of an impact your own state of mind will have on the interaction. 

Build trust and confidence

Just like communication, trust is another key factor for any positive and successful relationship.

When you trust someone you have confidence in their intentions and motives and this is the same if they have trust in you. 

Trust is important in the workplace, whether you’re trusting your colleague to cover for you during a leave of absence, or trusting someone to show up to a meeting or deliver on time. Lots of things hinge on trust. 

Here are 3 key things that can help you build trust:

  1. Trust others. While trusting others can make you feel vulnerable, especially if you’re not generally a trusting person, remember, It’s always easier to trust someone if they trust you. It’s all about give-and-take. 
  2. Be understanding. Remember that trust is a complex thing and for some people, it will be more difficult than others depending on past experiences and other personal factors. 
  3. Be dependable and consistent. There’s no greater way to build trust than sticking to your word, being there for people and being consistent in your actions. 

Tailor your approach 

If you want to build a successful relationship at work with someone, it’s important to tailor your approach when interacting with them. A phrase that’s often used is “meet them where they are” Simply put, this means recognizing their personal preferences and how they like to do things and tailoring your approach to suit. 

Some examples of how you could meet someone where they include:

  • Making sure your meetings are in person if they prefer face to face
  • Making sure you send the necessary reports to them early when you know they have a particular need for it
  • Keeping your communications concise, short and to the point, if this is what they prefer, or more detailed if that’s more their style 
  • Keeping them more informed than others of what’s going on 

The list goes on. By tailoring your approach to fit better with the other person, you’re more likely to build a successful working relationship going forward. And while it’s not about giving in to their every whim, this flexibility will show them that you’re considered and that you understand them, or at least that you’re taking steps to. 

After all, people tend to like people like them, and they tend to trust people they like. By doing things in a way that’s more in keeping with their style, you’re putting yourself in a good position for building trust and rapport. 

Be self-aware

If you’re going to tailor your approach then you need to be self-aware. Being self-aware means understanding yourself and your preferred ways of working and understanding your natural preferences and your style. 

Why is this important? 

A lack of self-awareness can manifest in many ways. We all know that person who never knows when to stop, who is constantly “ON” even at the worst moments or who talks about themselves non-stop, whether people are listening or not. Or the person who makes inappropriate comments, without taking note of their audience. 

Self-awareness means recognizing your emotions, knowing your strengths and understanding your weaknesses. Someone who is self-aware is more able to take on board the feedback from others, listen and be open to other people’s opinions and ideas. 

If you’re self-aware then you’ll be respectful of your coworkers and receive the same trust and respect in return. 

Offer to help

Can you remember the last time someone offered to help you with something? How did you feel? What did you think of that person? 

Offering to help someone without them asking is very powerful in helping you build better relationships. What’s more, research has found that people who help others at work are happier and less likely to leave their jobs, so by helping others, you’ll be helping yourself as well. So it’s a win, win. 

Show consideration

The final critical factor where building good relationships is concerned is showing consideration. 

You can show consideration in many ways.  Like remembering a colleagues birthday, offering to help during a busy spell at work or recognizing when a colleague is not feeling themselves.

However big or small the gesture, being thoughtful and considerate towards your colleagues over time is a sure fire way to build trust, rapport, respect, and ultimately a successful and excellent working relationship. 

In Summary

If you want to start building new relationships or need to improve your current relationships, then these are the 7 steps you need to take in order to start building great relationships at work.  

  1. Improve your communication skills 
  2. Avoid preconceptions, assumptions, and prejudgment 
  3. Build trust and confidence 
  4. Tailor your approach 
  5. Be self-aware 
  6. Offer to help 
  7. Show consideration 


Now read this post to start improving your communication skills.