Building professional relationships continues to be difficult as working from home has put a physical wedge between us and our coworkers.

My circle has shrunk…how do I expand it working from home? For some this is new territory…the longer you have been working from home the more you are noticing how much you miss the chance encounters in the hall or the lunchroom or the elevator. With the advice of leadership coaching programs that is presented in this article, you can begin the process of reaching back out for a healthier, and comfortable workplace.

The Importance of Building Professional Relationships

“I miss bumping into people from other divisions,” one client recently shared. “I feel like I barely talk to anyone outside my immediate team and I’m starting to realize how much I value those quick connections and random encounters.”  

“I’m beginning to realize,” shared another, “the energy I used to get, perhaps some new ideas or a different viewpoint, all from chance encounters with others.” 

Staying connected is an important human need. Whether you are an extrovert or an introvert, connection feeds us in different ways. As I sought out perspective from others on this topic it became very clear that there are big benefits in putting the time and effort into being more intentional about connecting with others. Even further, the benefits of connecting with your team, and building professional relationships virtually.

Building Professional Relationships To Increase Virtual Visibility

Visibility is not only about focusing on your own career goals and success, it can also be about increasing the visibility of the team you lead, the project you are passionate about, or the product you are innovating. While working from home, it can become easy to get lost in the background if we don’t speak up during meetings, or physically take up space in the office. The benefits of increasing our visibility light the path to building professional relationships through connection!

  • Opportunities – staying connected with people outside your team raises your own profile which can lead to better opportunities. It also gives you an opportunity to coach and mentor someone else’s success which gives you a sense of personal satisfaction and defines your brand as a generous leader. Don’t allow yourself to forget about the rest of the individuals at your organization that have the potential to become great assets, branch out from just your team.
  • Influence – to be influential you need to have strong relationships. When you build stronger relationships with others outside your own team or office location it gives you more opportunity to share key insights that can have a positive impact on someone else’s career or project. You can also gain insights to support you and your team’s success. One sales manager shared how his focus on building professional relationships with some marketing managers in other locations has greatly increased the collaboration between these two departments which is translating into better sales opportunities and higher profits.
  • Expanding perspective – it is easy when you spend a great deal of time by yourself or focused on your own team to get insular, to get very wrapped up in your own opinion and narrow your perspective. By reaching out to others in different roles, divisions, countries it gives you the opportunity to learn what others are doing, what’s important to them, what’s challenging them. This more expansive perspective can increase your own creativity and innovation. 
  • Self-satisfaction – getting outside yourself, building relationships and serving others is proven to be good for your own well-being. It boosts endorphins which leads to an increase in happiness. Who doesn’t want to be happier? When you are feeling happier and more positive, that energy flows out to others to positively impact your connections, and assist your confidence in building professional relationships too.

How Are Experts Building Professional Relationships?

So…I went to the experts! Well established individuals are plentiful when it comes to making connections in professional settings as it is an essential way to promote yourself, others, and drive your company to success.  I sought out advice from people that have always worked remotely for some of their best tips.

“I have never worked at the head office of our organization,” one client shared. “I recognize this limits some job opportunities that only exist at head office however I have learned it doesn’t have to limit all opportunities.” 

Know your goals and share them succinctly. “I’ve always been of the mindset that if you want someone to help you, be specific about the help you need,” shared a client. “If increased visibility is important to you, share with others that fact and why. Make it easy for them to share the right information with you.” Another client shared this, “When my team is perhaps stuck and needing another perspective, I put the word out as to what information we are seeking and ask people to send just 1 idea or share 1 perspective. I often get more than 1 but I have found that specifically asking for only 1 tends to get more response than leaving it open. People have time to share 1 thing. 

Change your mind set.  Here’s what a client shared who has been working remotely for 15 years…”Instead of thinking about networking and connecting as being ‘all about me’, shift your thinking to how you can be in service of others ‘What can I do for you?’, ‘How can I help you and your team be successful?’, ‘How can I bring more value to your project or the organization in general?’ Increasing your visibility through supporting others tells others who you are and what you value.” This has led to opportunities for this client that he would have never known about as others have come to him because of his generosity, driving his chances of building professional relationships with little effort.

Use video for more than just meetings. A client recently shared that she started sending out a weekly 3-minute video update to her peers, boss, boss’s boss, to keep them informed of the progress on a big project. This has not only upped her and her team’s visibility but has resulted in much more extensive collaboration and feedback than she has experienced in previous projects. “The difference in the response I am getting with that video vs. sending a text only email is phenomenal!”, she shared. Building professional relationships is strongly tied with getting comfortable and familiar with individuals who share the same passions as you, and showing yourself will benefit in this area.

Arrive to video meetings early. “I have gotten to know more about people in a couple of minutes of ‘idle chit chat’ awaiting other participants than I would have otherwise,” shared another client. “This pre-meeting ‘dead space’ is kind of like running into someone at the coffee counter or in the elevator. It gives you an opportunity to connect on a personal level without an agenda. One never knows where that connection will take you!”

Be intentional about reaching out to others. Schedule it in your calendar. One client shared that he looks at scheduled networking time as an investment in himself and his team. When you put it in your calendar it gets done! Perhaps try this 4×4 Networking Challenge: 

  • Each month, meet with 4 people that you already know but want to know even better
  • Each month, meet with 4 people that you don’t know but you would like to get to know 

Enlist the support of your boss. Let your boss know how he/she can help you. One client recently shared with her boss her desire to increase her visibility and he instantly came up with 3 names of people he felt might be good mentors for her that worked in different divisions in different parts of the world. He didn’t think to volunteer that info until she let him know her desire for more connection with a specific focus. This encourages building professional relationships with management, but also those outside your team.

It’s not all about work. Many clients have shared that they have put more effort and intention into creating or taking part in social opportunities like virtual cafeterias, virtual social hours, and scheduled ‘hang out’ times that have a ‘no work talk’ theme. This has resulted in building social relationships with others all over the world, expanding their social circle in a way that they would not have previously. 

Being intentional about increasing your visibility while working from home has many personal and professional benefits. With a bit of conscious effort, you can open yourself up to new possibilities and continue building professional relationships. One never knows where that will lead!   

We’d love to hear your tips! 

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How to Create a Coaching Culture in Your Orgnization