Fostering Excellence
Bringing out the best in each of us

Make Time for Building Social Capital  

As a busy leader of business professionals you have a lot on your plate. It can be difficult to carve out time to build the social relationships that really make your business successful. Let’s face it, meetings, data calls and leadership do-outs leave little time for the water cooler. In all of these business scenarios you are interacting with people, but not all interactions build social capital. Positive, fun, connecting, often non-work-related, interactions build social capital and these generally are built outside of transactional interactions.

Building social capital is critical to the success of your organization. Strong interpersonal relationships provide the common understanding, interest and empathy that allow networks of people to accomplish the tasks that further your organization’s goals.  As a leader you need to make time to build social capital, but also need to enable your workforce at large to do the same. Here are some common business contexts where it is important to make time to build social capital:

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Working with enablers: Whether it’s your IT support team, finance department, or travel office, these enablers are critical to your success. Spend the time to get to know them and their problem sets. Often, the problems enablers experience are completely different than those of the sales, marketing or operations teams. Build that common understanding and empathy! This can go a long way to establishing rapport and creating conditions for you to mutually support each other.

External Stakeholder Management: Stakeholders outside your organization can have a significant impact, for better or worse, on your team’s success. Misunderstandings between organizations can sour relationships and create unnecessary friction. These long distance relationships will always need attention and focus on the personal dimension. Making sure your business trip to these organizations is long enough to build social capital, not just “get the job done,” can ensure a long lasting relationship that benefits both parties.

Customers: Obviously, getting to know your customers’ needs is important, but getting to know the customers is just as, if not more, important. Your customers will “buy in” to you before they buy your product. Make sure they know you care before you try and sell them a product. Consider your clientele base to be a strategic partner, and make the commensurate social investment in them and your relationship.

Your own team: Sometimes we can end up treating our customers better than our own teams-don’t get taught in that trap! Your teams are your most important stakeholders; make time in each day to strengthen your relationship with them. Make sure they have face time with you, and make sure they have meaningful social interactions with each other. Investments in break rooms, or recreation rooms, to enable these social interactions are strategic investments in your organization, make them!

The bottom line is to make sure that time is carved out of your day, week, and business trips to strengthen the relationships at the personal level that make your business possible. Make sure your facilities are designed and equipped for meaningful social interactions for teams, clients, and other stakeholders. Remember, spending time at the water cooler may be the most important part of your day!
  
Michael Farr, PMP, is a Chief Master Sergeant in the U.S. Air Force and founder of Fosteringexcellence.org. He is passionate about recognition and enabling professionals to motivate their organizations through recognizing their member’s excellence. When he is not slaying dragons with his kids, he can be found at @fosterxcellence on Twitter and @fosteringexcellence on Facebook.

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