Use the fresh start and the energy that the new year brings to your advantage for your virtual team. Relationships are the life blood of successful communication and collaboration. If successful salespeople perform annual relationship reviews with their clients, why can't you do the same with your virtual team?
Think about all the vital relationships that you have on your virtual and matrixed team throughout your organization. Like it or not, these are the connections that will determine your success or failure in your career or role. Warning! The steps to being successful with this resolution will involve some work. If you don't have the time to invest in your relationships, stop reading now.
Okay, if you are still with me, I'm assuming that you are committed to improving your relationships. Now that you've thought about your relationships, the first step is to put pen to paper (or fingers to keypad). Write each of your contacts’/team members’ name in one of three columns: 1. Strong, 2. Good, and 3. Weak. Here is a simple way to determine which category to sort the names into. Start by asking yourself, “If I called this person right now and asked for a favor that would require a little work on their part, this would feel like (based on your relationship)...”: A) a very reasonable request, B) a somewhat reasonable request, C) a downright awkward request. As you might guess, you've just sorted your strong relationships into column A, good relationships into column B and weak relationships into column C. Be honest with yourself as you do this. If you are not sure, place their name in the lower category. For example, if you can't decide if "Jane Smith" is in the strong or good category, then put her in good. This will ensure that you don't overlook a situation that may need attention.
Now you need to prioritize these relationships. Ultimately you would like to work on all of them. However, to be realistic, you only have so much time and attention available. To that end, pick the top ten relationships in your strong column and the top five in both your good and weak columns. Look at these twenty names and take 10 minutes to write beside each name why they are in that category. You might ask why I have chosen for you to focus more energy in the strong column. There are two reasons:
- I want you to get a good feel for what you are doing well in your best relationships.
- I want you to think about how you can leverage your best relationships to strengthen your weaker relationships.
The first step is now complete. You've identified key relationships and that's no small feat. The next step is to determine what it will take to move relationships up one category, from good to strong or from weak to good. This will be your resolution for 2016 - to see how many relationships you can strengthen on this list before the end of the year.
Here are some suggestions on the actions that you can take to build a relationship:
Focus on making meaningful connections: Reach out to see what's happening in their world. Ask questions and provide some value with your experience. Arrange a coffee, lunch, a catch up phone call or an informal meeting on a virtual platform.
Do something for them: One of the keys to influence is reciprocity. Be the first to help out your contacts. Send them information that might be valuable to them or connect them with a business or personal resource/opportunity that they would find valuable. For example, "Mike, you've mentioned that you are looking at private schools for your teenage daughter. I have two contacts at two great schools that you might want to connect with."
Assume positive intent: If you have had a strained relationship with a vital colleague, reach out with an olive branch. Understand that people sometimes act in self-interest that could damage a relationship. Sometimes they are so caught up that they can only see themselves and can't process what their actions have done to others. Assume that they didn't mean to hurt or slight you and move the relationship forward. Not forgiving others is a heavier burden on us than them. Living in the past only hurts you.
Reach out and repair: Likewise, if you realize that you have damaged a relationship, make it right. Swallowing the nasty tasting medicine can be good in the long run. We all don't show up the way we would like to in stressful situations. Owning up to it is the best medicine. The paradox is that in your vulnerability, you become strong.
These actions will not only help you build stronger relationships but they will improve your collaborations and increase your influence. Have a prosperous 2016!
Please feel free to share your progress with us or tell us a success that you’ve had with your virtual team.