Building relationships within your company is critical if you want to learn, influence others, be more visible, and even get a promotion.
Most people make the common mistake of building relationships only with people they work with on a daily basis. But you have to go broader than that by reaching out to others outside of your normal workgroup, especially those you have never met before. Those are the relationships that will have the biggest impact on you as a leader and for your team.
The process for initiating these relationships is easy but many people shy away from this critical networking activity because it’s uncomfortable. Most of my clients need a bit of prompting because they do not know how to start, what to talk about, or they worry about how they will fill up the time during this type of event.
Let’s walk through this process the same way that I walk my clients through it. First, make a list of anyone within your company that you want to meet. Think big by listing people outside of your team, area, department, or business unit.
Then, prioritize the list starting with people who you know might have the biggest impact on you. Prioritizing will be different for everyone and only you will be able to determine who to start with.
Start with your top two or three people and send an initial email to request a meeting.
This is where my clients get nervous because they don’t know what to say. You want to keep this email to two or three sentences covering the following points:
- Introduce yourself (if they don’t already know you)
- Let them know you are trying to expand your knowledge by learning more about their area, their team, and what they do.
- Request a 30-minute meeting
I have never heard of anyone turning down this type of invitation. Most people are more than happy to talk about their area and it gives them a chance to act as a mentor or subject matter expert.
Another point of anxiety for my clients is what to say once they get into the meeting. It is important that you have a natural curiosity so that your questions are authentic. Do your research about the person you are meeting and then prepare 2 – 4 open-ended questions.
Some examples are: “What are your team’s top three objectives for this year?” or “What are some of the challenges you are facing right now?” Even “What can my team do to help resolve some of your pain points?”
Be sure that your questions are applicable to the person and situation, and that you practice active listening. My clients usually worry that they won’t have enough questions to fill up the time. The opposite is usually true, and they normally get close to running out of time. You will be surprised at how much constructive conversation can be generated by a few open-ended questions.
Be sure to end the conversation by thanking the other person and always leave the door open to meet up again.
You can do this by suggesting a touch-base in a few months, asking to connect on LinkedIn, or asking if you can contact them if you have more questions.
Internal networking is a great learning experience. It allows you to build relationships, understand others’ pain points, and gives you the visibility and influence that you need in your career.