That building and nurturing relationships is a vital skill for effective leadership is no secret. So how do you build meaningful relationships?

It is our connections with others that can support us when making big decisions, open doors to new opportunities, and guide us to achieve our career goals. But seeking constructive professional relationships is often easier said than done. We ask Tarun Singhal, Director of Business Development, Marketing & Communications at Sopra Steria India and Sopra Banking Software India.

In today’s digital economy, trust is the ultimate currency. But how do we gain the trust of others to create meaningful professional relationships? 

In moments of reflection, I marvel at how much the stories and experiences of those I’ve met at various junctures of my life have contributed to the person I am today.

The colleagues and mentors I’ve met, many of whom have become my friends, spanning my career of two and a half decades, have been invaluable to my professional development. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from them is how to develop practical skills for building constructive professional relationships. That is, they taught me to focus on strategic networking.

Unlike operational or personal networking, which tend to help us get the immediate job done, strategic networking helps us to marshal new insights from people from different backgrounds, different professional sectors and with different perspectives that will not only help us to develop personally, but help us to achieve bigger and better results professionally.

Many successful professionals are adept at networking at an operational or personal level but although vital for effective leadership, strategic networking is often forgotten.

In other words, we must learn, unlearn and re-learn from the people our businesses and products serve, other leaders in our field, our competitors and the many other people around us.

I have a simple formula that I use to help me focus on strategic networking: IGNITE!

I = Innovate. Find new ways to connect with people (i.e. instant message, email, video call).

G = Growth. Invest time in building new connections and nurturing existing relationships.

N = Natural. Stay true to yourself. It’s okay to be influenced by others but always remember to think critically.

I = Integrity. It pays to be transparent and honest with those in your networks. As well as spreading positivity, it also helps us create life-long bonds.

T = Trust. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, trust is the ultimate currency in today’s digital economy. It has never been more important to develop and maintain trust with those we meet to accomplish common goals.

E = Empathy. Connect with people regardless of religious, social, physical or economic backgrounds. Engage with them to achieve meaningful outcomes.

As a child I was fascinated by Aesop’s Fable of the Lion and the Mouse, which spells out a strong message that opportunities to connect with others can arise unexpectedly, at any time, in any place. It teaches us to never underestimate how much we can learn and grow from others, regardless of our perceived differences.

Building connections, sharing ideas, and interacting with new people has become one of my favourite pastimes. I have over five hundred selfies with renowned personalities from around the world. I deeply enjoy looking at the photos and remembering the experience gained, stories exchanged, and lessons learned.

My greatest advice for future leaders is to invest time in making meaningful connections. It will not only help you harness skills of empathy and compassion, but it will help you progress in your professional journey and become strategic, effective leaders of the future.


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