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(MoneyWatch) COMMENTARY Now more than ever, there never seems to be enough time to get things done. Why that is, I don't know. But I do know that, in an era of social networking, telecommuting and virtual meetings, when it comes to work, the one thing that gets sacrificed is relationships.
If you want to get somewhere in your career, in management, in business, the worst thing you can do is just focus on work, work, work. Success is all about relationships. Relationships with your management, boss, peers, employees, customers -- everyone in your immediate work ecosystem, if you know what I mean.
And I'm not just talking about working relationships; I'm talking about your personal relationships with these people, where you break through the workplace persona people use for whatever reason and actually connect with the human being beneath.
Just to be clear, this isn't about wasting people's time. That's a bad idea because, as I said before, that's the one precious commodity that nobody has enough of these days. But if you do it right -- if you're genuine, open and sensitive to people's boundaries -- you'll do fine.
Here are seven reasons why your success depends far more on those all-important interpersonal work relationships than you realize:
Any CEO, VC, or entrepreneur will tell you that their network is their biggest asset. It's where opportunities come from. And when it comes to networking, doing it old school is a major distinguishing factor versus social networking. When you have a personal relationship with someone, that creates a level of trust that sets you apart from the virtual hordes.
Strong relationships make it easier to get information and information is power. It could be about a major project, a key customer, budget cuts or an upcoming promotion opportunity. When it comes to important stuff, you have to give to get, and you're not going to get anything valuable from somebody who doesn't trust you.
Relationships get people through tough times. Long ago I learned that, all things being equal, a personal relationship will help you keep your job, win the business, whatever it is you need, it can make the difference when times are hard. It also means you have someone to lean on. Try leaning on someone you hardly know. Bad idea.
The higher up the corporate ladder you climb, the higher the stakes, the bigger the deals, the more important everything becomes. And that means people have to look you in the eye and feel confident that they know who they're looking at, that you'll do what you say you're going to do, get the job done, whatever. And vice versa.
These days, companies have to be lean and mean, and that means having fewer, stronger relationships. No kidding. It's the same reason why manufacturers minimize their number of vendors, suppliers and components. Because it's more cost effective that way. Also, there's a cost associated with bad business because you didn't know the person as well as you should have and he failed to meet a commitment, for example.
It may be easier than ever to work and communicate virtually, but all that does is level the playing field, meaning there's nothing that distinguishes your relationship with an individual. There's no real connection, no real bond, and when push comes to shove, you can't expect that person to do anything special or go the extra mile for you.
Personal relationships are more important in just about every nation on the planet than they are in the U.S. Why that is, I can't say. But I've done business in dozens of countries on five continents and just about every culture devotes more time and energy to personal relationships than Americans do. And the more global our markets become, the more important it is to get with the majority program.
If you're not comfortable about how to connect with people and build relationships without crossing some sort of line -- there are plenty, these days -- check out these 10 tips on How to schmooze your way to business success.
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