“Personal relationships are the fertile soil from which all advancement, all success, all achievement in real life grows.” – Ben Stein
Getting to know the key executives in your company will propel your career forward. Those influential leaders need to know who you are, what you do, and the value you bring. When they understand how much you contribute and truly like and believe in you, they will want to see you succeed. Thus, focus on working to build strong relationships with the people who hold the most influence over your career.
Many employees don’t work to grow these relationships. You may notice many of your coworkers keeping to themselves rather than reaching out to organizational leaders when the opportunity presents. When they run into an executive in the hallway, they avert their eyes. If they see them in the elevator, they nod a greeting and then look at their phone rather than striking up a conversation.
Why is that? My clients have shared these reasons for not building relationships with executives:
- Not having the time.
Building relationships requires an investment of time, and employees are already struggling to keep up with the demands of their jobs. The idea of making time to do something that isn’t essential to their role can seem far-fetched at best.
- Not wanting to interrupt them or take up their time.
Knowing that executives are busy people, employees don’t want to distract them from their important work. They don’t want to appear self-centered by taking their focus away from their job.
- The executives work in a different department.
Employees may not see the value of connecting with leaders outside of their own business unit. They might have an easier time connecting with the ones they work with more closely, while not prioritizing building relationships with those who work in other functions.
A lot of this stems from a mentality of time scarcity. Employees fear the time investment it would take—on both their part and that of the leaders—to build these relationships. However, getting ahead in your career means strategically prioritizing how you use your time. You need to set higher-order priorities so that “urgent” daily requests don’t take over your schedule. One of those high-level priorities should be connecting with high-level leaders. Having their support will jumpstart your career success and even help you become more effective in your current role. When you build strong working relationships with senior leaders, you’ll grow your influence, making you more effective at your job.
At the same time, when executives know the up-and-coming leaders in their company, they can develop their talent effectively and plan for succession. Company leaders know the importance of investing time and money in this priority—so rather than worrying about wasting their time, think about how you’re saving them time by making it easier for them to connect with you and guide your progress. Likewise, sharing the results of your project isn’t wasting their time—it’s giving them valuable information that they can use in decision-making. That means—you guessed it—it’s actually saving them time as well.
Moreover, building these relationships doesn’t require a massive time commitment. Chatting with an executive as you walk down the hallway, sending a report on your team’s progress, asking your boss to introduce you to a key leader after a meeting, or going to lunch with a high-level leader won’t sap hours of anyone’s time. It may simply feel like it will take more time because of the time spent feeling anxious about these interactions. Once you start reaching out to influential executives, though, you’ll realize they’re just people who want you to succeed—and these interactions will become a natural part of your routine. Learn to pitch your ideas to executives succinctly and persuasively to make the most of those moments.
Seek out relationships with executives throughout your company. Work to build strong relationships within your own department based on what you have in common, but branch out from there. Ask for introductions from the leaders you already know well. Having a network of cross-functional relationships will vastly expand your influence and ability to get things done. You’ll have allies in positions of power throughout the organization, rather than just in your own silo, giving you far more buy-in for your ideas and initiatives. You can also leverage these relationships by asking for input and advice from those outside your function, which will help you to make more strategic decisions.
In short, you can’t afford not to start building strong relationships with executives across your organization. As you do so, you’ll achieve more and gain more recognition in your current role, priming you for advancement—and ensuring that key leaders already know what you can accomplish.
Joel will help you make a plan for expanding your influence throughout your workplace. Contact him to get the ball rolling today!