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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

This CEO's Trick for Building Stronger Relationships Is So Easy That You Can Pull it Off Too

person writing card
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If you love learning from successful people, you already know common habits they point to, like:

But there’s another one to add to the list—that I doubt you’ve heard 100 times already: Send birthday cards to everyone you work with.

Paper Source Watercolor Balloons A2 Happy Birthday Cards, Set of 10

According to Chris Weller of Business Insider, Sheldon Yellen, the CEO of BELFOR Holdings, Inc., credits writing birthday cards (7,400 annually) for building a strong rapport with his employees and contributing to “a more compassionate, gracious workplace.”

When it you think about it, this strategy makes total sense, because in the words of Claude Silver Chief Heart Officer at VaynerMedia, people want to “bring their whole selves to work,” and that means sharing more than progress on a to-do list with the people around them.

But, while this may be what we want, it can be hard to connect with colleagues on a level other than “Here’s that part of the report you needed...” No one’s trying to be rude, but it’s easy to get wrapped up, especially if you’re busy. And as one deadline rolls into the next, you realize that your work relationships all feel pretty transactional.

That’s where writing birthday cards come in. First, every single one of your colleagues has one, so you don’t run this risk of leaving people out. The dates may already be noted in your database or a shared worksheet, and if not, you can send an email around to your teammates asking them to share their birthday if they’re comfortable doing that.

Second, take the next step and buy a box of cards to leave in your desk. That way, when someone’s big day rolls around, you can quickly write a handwritten note (learn more about why this makes a difference to the other person).

For you, it won’t be that much more effort, but to the other person, it’ll feel like you went out of your way to do something thoughtful.

If you’re a loss for words, just fill in this template:

Dear [Name],

Happy Birthday!

I enjoyed getting to know you better over the course of [project]./ I'm excited to work together on [initiative]./ I always look forward to [your thoughtful contributions to meetings/our discussions of [favorite team]].

Hope you have a great day!
[Your Name]

Like Yellen, you should notice a chain reaction. Your co-workers will know you care enough to remember them for something that isn’t work-related. In turn, they’ll thank you for the card, and it’ll open the door to discussing more than progress updates.

Above all, keep in mind that this strategy can help anyone build stronger relationships. You don’t have to be the CEO. In fact, as Muse columnist Erica Breuer shares, sending birthday cards is a great way for remote workers to stay connected to their colleagues, too.

So, if you’re looking for looking for an easy to build stronger relationships, buy some birthday cards. Let me know if you try this strategy out and if it works for you on Twitter.