Strategically Build Relationships
Nobody does it alone. Success in anything requires the help and support of others, and too often we take these relationships for granted. Personal and professional relationships change during transitions. A new role at work may require leaving well-established working and mentoring relationships. A personal transition may mean leaving close friends behind and starting over in a new community. Whether personal or professional, the challenge during a transition is to proactively build the relationships you will need to thrive in your new situation. A network of strong personal and professional relationships will make a significant difference in whether you achieve your goals and how fulfilled you are along the way.
People get so focused on what they want to accomplish during transitions that building the relationships needed for success in the next chapter often takes a back seat. There are four different kinds of relationships that are beneficial during transitions, and it is critical to invest time in building all four of them.
Being around people you like not only makes whatever you’re doing more enjoyable, it also makes you more productive. For introverts, a warm greeting coming into work may be all it takes. Extroverts will benefit more from working with team members. Whether you are working, volunteering, or making the most of retirement, high-quality social relationships reduce stress, increase engagement and increase satisfaction.
Social relationships don’t just impact your emotions and productivity, they impact your health and longevity. Researchers from Concordia University in Canada studied a group of international students who moved to Montreal. They found that students who were socially isolated during their transition were at greater risk of poor health while those with strong social networks were healthier overall.
Are there people in your life who encourage you, listen to you, challenge you, and celebrate with you? This is important at all stages of life, but particularly for people transitioning into retirement. Retirement for many brings a sharp decline in the amount of contact with other people. Previous work relationships are gone, and it is important to prepare for the vacuum created and fill it with meaningful relationships in retirement.
- Go-to people
Go-to people are those people you turn to when you have an urgent need or problem. A list of go-to people is a life-saver during any transition and will save time and minimize stress. Go-to people provide fast answers and expedite resolution for all kinds of issues. They have the know-how, resources, and connections to solve problems quickly, which helps you focus on your highest priorities.
Imagine that your transition includes moving to a new city. A month after you move a pipe bursts and your basement begins to flood. The difference between knowing who to call immediately and beginning the search for someone as the water rises can mean a difference of thousands of dollars and a good night’s sleep.
You likely had a list of go-to people prior to your transition. While some of them will still work well in your new world, there will likely be gaps to fill. Determine the go-to people you need and begin making a list. The broader your social network, the more access to go-to people you’ll have.
Don’t wait until you have a crisis to begin building your list of go-to people. Start making the list as soon as you transition and nurture it so it’s ready when you need it.
- Personal Board of Directors
Just like a company needs a Board of Directors for high-level guidance, you will benefit from a group of people who will serve as mentors and advisors. These are people you can turn to when you need a sounding board, have a complex situation to navigate, or when you have an important decision to make. These are people with the experience and knowledge to help you navigate challenges.
This is especially helpful during transition because you’ll encounter new and unexpected challenges. Having a group of people whose knowledge and experience you can tap into increases your effectiveness exponentially. Your personal board consists of people you trust and respect whose successes and failures will help you through your transition and beyond. They aren’t there to tell you what you want to hear, they are they to tell you what you need to hear.
Earl is an attorney who has been a trusted advisor for our family for most of my life. I learned the importance of having a trusted advisor by watching my dad turn to him over the years for personal and professional advice. As an adult, Earl became a vital part of my personal board. I rely on his expertise for a variety of complex issues and use him as a sounding board when a particularly difficult decision needs to be made. People like Earl are invaluable during a transition and beyond. Do you have an Earl?
- Strategic partners
Strategic partners are influential people that others respect and listen to. There are influencers all around us. While they may not always have an impressive title, they are vital to helping us accomplish our goals and key initiatives.
These are the people in meetings others turn to when making a decision to gauge their level of buy in to a new idea. These are the people who upon hearing an idea they believe in will gather the support and resources to make it happen.
For example, a person who has decided to write a book or start a foundation in retirement will be more successful if there is a key influencer involved who can provide ideas and make introductions to get it done. Strategic partners are invaluable during transitions. Do you have relationships with any?
“You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.” Charles Jones
Given the importance of all four types of relationships during transition, it is important to choose them deliberately.
Who is going to support you after a setback? Who will you turn to when you need to have some fun and recharge? Who will help you solve an immediate personal or professional problem? Who will partner with you to make the difference you want to make? Your time is limited, so choose wisely.
How do you find time to build relationships when transitions are so busy?
The first step is understanding how important these relationships are to successfully navigating your transition. We tend to prioritize things that are important to us. While you might begin by putting a few extra coffee, lunch, and happy hour meetings in your calendar, smaller efforts during daily interactions can also go far toward building and nurturing relationships. The following list is just a few ideas to get you started:
- Use the time waiting for a meeting to begin talking to other members of your team instead of being on your device.
- Take the time to introduce yourself to your new neighbors when you get the mail.
- Take advantage of the social opportunities offered at work or in your neighborhood.
- Join a gym or a company team to meet people while your exercise.
- Find opportunities to volunteer and you’ll meet people with similar values.
- Take a class in something you’ve never done before and you’ll meet people with different experiences and perspectives.
- Start with people you already know, even if you only know one person. Ask that person for introductions to others and begin fleshing out your new network.
Remember, nobody does it alone. A successful transition requires the help and support of others. As you transition, you will likely leave some or all of your network behind. Prioritize developing relationships and building a new network for a more efficient and effective transition.