One of the most important things that you can do for your career or business twice a year in July and in December is to conduct a detailed and thoughtful audit of your professional relationships with clients/customers, team members and internal and external contacts and colleagues using this three-step process. First, make a list of the names of all of your clients/customers, team members and internal and external contacts and colleagues. Second, ask yourself: Are these relationships corrosive or collaborative? The dictionary definition of corrosive is “destroying or undermining something gradually” and the dictionary definition of collaborative is “working together with one or more people to achieve something”. Third, as you review each name on the list, indicate whether you see the relationship as corrosive or collaborative and provide a brief explanation of why it is this way. Do you have easy or difficult clients/customers? Are you eager to contact and work with them or do you make excuses and procrastinate when having to contact or do work for them? Have you been neglecting them because you are way too busy or are you making time for, taking good care of and keeping in close touch with them regardless of how busy you are? Do you like, respect and encourage your contacts, colleagues and team members or do you dislike, disrespect and discourage them? Are there certain people who you know or work with who drag, drain and deplete you rather than support, strengthen and sustain you?
When you look at the individuals with whom you currently have corrosive professional relationships, avoid the temptation of pointing the finger of blame directly at the other person. Instead, think about how much of a role you have played in changing what probably started as a positive and productive relationship into one that has become increasingly corrosive. How easy or difficult have you been to work with recently? Are you keeping up with your commitments and delivering quality work on time and on budget or have you been cherry picking what you want to do and what is in your comfort zone causing you to become increasingly angry, resentful, ineffective and unreliable as you allow the work to pile up and the deadlines to slide? When you are overworked and overwhelmed, you can take actions and make decisions with far-reaching and long-term consequences that can ultimately sever lucrative and longstanding connections.
In the end, it really does not matter whose fault it is, the fact is that you have corrosive professional relationships that must be immediately repaired and converted into collaborative relationships so that you can not only continue to build and maintain your reputation but also grow and prosper in your career or business. What three things can you do today to start to build the trust and respect that is necessary to return these relationships to ones that are constructive, collaborative and communicative? Here are three suggestions: first, contact the individual and humbly and honestly apologize for your part in the corrosion of the relationship no matter how small or large it actually was; second, invite the individual to join you for coffee so that you can start to restore the relationship to its former glory and third, put together an action plan that will give you the focus and discipline to stay on track, meet your deadlines and deliver on commitments going forward. You may find that with some individuals it will be more beneficial for you to not make an effort to repair these relationships. In this case, think about what you have learned from your dealings with them. Make an effort to apply these lessons if these types of individuals cross your path again in the future.
If you have collaborative relationships with most or all of the individuals on your list, make time to touch base with each of these people, express your gratitude and reinforce your commitment to build and maintain strong, supportive and sustainable relationships with them. You want to work with diligence and discipline every day to ensure that your professional relationships remain collaborative to lay a solid foundation for successful partnerships for the rest of this busy summer and throughout a focused fall.