Diversify Your Portfolio of Relationships

By David Nour

Your personal and professional success depends on the diversity and quality of your relationships with others, yet most of us don’t spend enough time building and nurturing the key relationships we need to achieve success.  Many times, we neglect to build relationships outside of our comfort zones with qualified co-workers and employees, ensuring that everyone in the talent pool has access to mentoring and coaching opportunities to grow professionally.

Personal relationships aim to enhance personal and professional development and are often utilized for referral of useful information and contacts.  They are mostly externally focused on current and future potential and encompass discretionary contacts with a sense of uncertainty regarding those most relevant.  Personal relationships garner their value in the breadth of the network by reaching out to contacts who can make referrals.  Think of the last time you searched for a medical specialist.  Many will comb their friends for appropriate referrals.

Functional relationships are drive by efficiency.  By maintaining capacity and functions required of the group, they are mostly internally focused and are interest oriented.  Key contacts are relatively nondiscretionary; the members are prescribed by tasks and organizational structures, and adding others is very clear to those relevant.  Functional networks gain their value in depth, focusing primarily on building working relationships.  Think of the last time you were looking for someone to help optimize your SAP implementation or your search for a Six Sigma black belt.  You combed your functional relationships and reached out to the most relevant subject matter expert.

Strategic relationships aim to uncover future challenges and opportunities.  They require support from a highly diverse and influential pool of stakeholders.  They are within and external to the organization and focused towards the future, where key contacts flow from strategic context.  Membership is extremely discretionary and strength is gained by creating a hybrid of internal and external assets.  Think of mergers and acquisitions or international expansion.  Many of the individuals you may know today could simply be irrelevant in those efforts.

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