In the early days of building my business I would spend many hours meeting new people. In fact, there were some days when attending events monopolised my time. It consumed so much of it that my business took a backseat!
Many people reading this will recognise that experience. I’m sure they will relay instances where they, too, felt overwhelmed by the amount of time spent instigating relationships.
In the end, you have a huge list of contacts but few meaningful relationships – and you have lost time along the way. The answer lies in balancing how much time you spend meeting new people with the art of building effective relationships.
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, business relationships have changed. This is not only because contact is primarily through video conferencing or phone calls, but the worlds of business and family have collided. Our homes suddenly became our offices.
I asked my LinkedIn followers for questions they had about building effective relationships as we eased out of lockdown. One person asked me how much time they should spend on building relationships while working at home with the responsibilities they have there.
A fine balance
One lesson I learned while networking in the early days of building a business is that there had to be a balance. Meeting new people is essential for a successful relational ecosystem – but it shouldn’t be your primary task or else your business will suffer.
Likewise, spending the entire day on Zoom and making calls shouldn’t be all-consuming or family life will suffer. So, organise your day so you can set aside meaningful ‘family time’.
This might be best after ‘office hours’, but not everyone in your relational ecosystem has strict boundaries, especially during an event like a pandemic. For some, home schooling means their schedules have been disrupted. Post-5pm maybe the only time they have for their business relationships, so be flexible and consider the issues others face.
Remember, the balance is fine, so it is perfectly acceptable if you can’t fully separate work from family life. You may need to discuss things with your partner or spouse, which is reasonable.
As CEO of Entripy Custom Clothing tells Entrepreneur magazine, “You don’t walk out the door and the business disappears!” He says that he shares his struggles with his wife, who is his ‘biggest cheerleader’.
It’s all in the audit
The biggest issue faced when trying to juggle the need to work on our relational ecosystem is to spend our time wisely. This means we must consider who really need to speak to.
My advice is to carry out a relationship audit. This isn’t as heartless as it might first sound. Without understanding the virtues and limitations of a relationship, you may spend a lot of time on those that need an incredible amount of nourishing. In such difficult times, it could be too time-consuming.
Instead, you must concentrate on the relationships that are strong and can be nurtured easily. The strongest relationships in our ecosystem will be more effective when time is of the essence.
Interestingly, the National Centre for Biotechnology Information, based in the USA, has recently issued a paper that looks at managing business relationships during a pandemic.
It suggests carrying out relationship audits and says, “It is important to figure out which relationships can be leveraged in both the short-term and the long-term. Further, firms must decide what the criteria to use in judging their relationships.
“We specifically propose that companies should evaluate both the unique contextual factors surrounding each business relationship during a pandemic and key attributes of the relationship itself, most notably the relationship value and relationship states.”
Make a map
Once you have carried out your audit, map out your relationships. Relationship mapping is carried out by larger businesses to help understand who plays a role in its processes and operations to achieve sales targets.
Such a map is equally useful in mapping your own business relationships. The map is a visual diagram that allows you to see a broad view of the people within your ecosystem. It does this by allowing you to highlight key people within it, so you can prioritise with them.
Traditionally, this would be done using cards and flipcharts, but there are now myriad CRM systems and apps that make producing relationship maps pretty simple.
In a nutshell, the map is made up of sets of lines which connect from you to your relationships to illustrate the strength of them. Those connections with thick lines are relationships that are stronger than those with thin lines. Dotted lines are fairly new relationships or those that have not yet matured.
This data gives a simple illustration of the connections and influences each relationship has and which requires the least amount of time to nurture. As a result, you will know where you need to focus your time on the most effective relationships.
Using the ‘F’ word is something I avoid in the business environment because friends are a sacred category of relationships. This ‘sector’ should include only a handful of people who you deeply trust.
During difficult times, these relationships are essential as they are effective without eating into your valuable time. Being able to speak to someone ‘out of hours’ could free your time when your family needs you during the day. Those we are closest to won’t mind when you call.
As a result, you will not only build deeper relationships by concentrating on those people you are closest too, your time will be better spent. And, as we all know, time is of the essence when life becomes so profoundly interrupted.
If you would like to know more about auditing your relationships or producing a relationship map, contact me today.