Research shows that having meaningful relationships at work is one of the most important factors of job satisfaction and overall well-being. So, the more proactive you are in building relationships at work—with colleagues, clients, mentors, and managers—the better off you’ll be both personally and professionally.
So, how do you do it? The first step to creating meaningful relationships is to reflect on and appreciate the ones you already have. Take a moment—right now—to think about which relationship at work gives you the greatest sense of purpose. It could be with your boss, a team member, or even that guy you chat with in the elevator every morning. Who inspires you? Who gives you energy?
Have your person in mind? Great. Now here comes the hard part: Let him or her know it. Send an email or a handwritten note, or, if you’re comfortable doing so, stop by this co-worker’s desk.
While emoting our appreciation for someone can be a squirm-worthy exercise, it’s worth it: More often than not the people we care about most don’t have a clue how important they are to us and our well-being. Letting them know will not only deepen your relationships, but also increase their sense of purpose by showing them the positive impact they’ve had on you. And that’s a pretty powerful feeling.
From there, try reaching out to others in your professional network. Here are more tried and true ways to foster meaningful relationships at work—some oldies, some you might not have thought of before, but all worth considering.
1. Track Names
You will meet a lot of new people throughout your career, especially when changing jobs or seeking out new networks. As you meet new contacts, write down their names and a few things that stood out to you about them. Follow up with people who you would like to get to know better or who are in positions that interest you. Being the one to first reach out and mentioning something you remember from your initial conversation gives a strong first impression and will help you build relationships quickly.
2. Find Energy Sources
Make a list of the people in your organization who give you energy when you meet with them, and seek out opportunities to work with them, whether it’s officially on an inter-departmental committee or more informally, like asking them for advice. When you do, be conscious of what it is about them that makes you want to work together, and share this with them.
3. Get Coffee. Then Get More Coffee
Make a list of people you’d like to get to know better, then set up coffee with one person per day for a month. Spend the time understanding what they love about their work. If you’re new on the job, this is an easy way to meet people within your organization—but even if you’re not, it’s a great way to build closer relationships. Oh, and be sure to pay!
4. Be Present
Ask yourself “What do my colleagues/managers/clients need from me today?” and then make it happen. Whether you offer new insights, head up a task, or simply lend support to your co-worker who has more than her share on her plate, small gestures can cause big ripples. Which leads me to…
5. Put Down the *%&# iPhone!
We get it. You have a million things on your plate, and your mind is already on the next four conference calls you have to get through today. But being fully present in every meeting and conversation will show people they are respected and deserving of your full attention. (Don’t believe me? This writer spent a week putting away her phone when she was around other people—and the results were amazing.)
6. Be a Mentor
Find someone you might mentor, and take her to lunch to learn about her dreams and aspirations. You don’t have to be an executive or even a manager—many mentoring relationships are peer to peer. To start, find what creates meaningful impact for you at work through a purpose assessment, then ask your mentee to do the same. Those who share your purpose see the world like you do, and those relationships can generate useful collaboration and deeper connection.
7. Seek Advice and New Knowledge
Ask someone for advice or information, and then follow up on it immediately. Show him or her you are someone worth investing in, as you will act on advice and are eager to learn.
8. Celebrate Others
Find a way to publicly celebrate the work of someone else on your team. It doesn’t have to be fireworks; it can just be a comment in a meeting or an email to the team. Recognizing your colleagues for the contributions they make, big and small, not only makes them feel appreciated, but also inspires others to create a culture of support and positivity feedback.
9. End the Day on the Right Note
At the end of each day, share with someone what you enjoyed from the day. What inspired you? What challenged you? What made you smile? Initiating these conversations can help your colleagues get to know you better and reflect on their own personal growth as well.
Forming connections today can help you in ways you might not even imagine right now. Invest in connecting with the people around you, and you invest in your own career and well-being. And who knows, you might just make a friend, or a dozen, along the way.