As a professional services and consulting firm, putting people first is an integral part of Propeller's culture code.
When we commit to clients, community and consultants alike, we are better at adding value to our people and our partners. In the COVID era, where so much has and continues to change, one of the many questions is how to show up for key people in your network. How do you keep them front and center as you go through your often fast-paced, dynamic day? And how do you share your personality, your services, your expertise, or your unique thought leadership from a distance?
Now more than ever, the partnerships that are established and strengthened during this time will prove mutually beneficial as we emerge from quarantine and progress relationships from the virtual world into the “next normal.”
Connecting those within your network through topics of mutual interest is a powerful way to demonstrate that partnership.
Here are some ways you can curate your network and add value through partnerships.
1. Share your organization’s work
When we launched our Holding Altitude microsite - a curated list of business tools and resources - in the early stages of the pandemic, I considered how it could be valuable to those in my network. For some, it related to past discussions around culture and how the concept of remote working may or may not have resonated with them. For others, it tied in conversations about organizational development, alignment, leadership and effectiveness. Either way, the microsite had something relevant, valuable, and meaningful to expand on past conversations.
One such example was a potential client, with whom I had had a conversation about organizational effectiveness. I offered up the link as a useful resource based on her team being so dispersed. This is a busy person who hadn't responded to me in a while but this outreach immediately triggered a response of gratitude. This inspired me to proactively look for ways to add value to people I interacted with in the past – even if it doesn’t result in an immediate business opportunity.
Partnerships can’t rely on the tried and true “we're in it for the long term” approach. It's about the relationship-building moments that really express our intent. And it's not always a big thing; sometimes it's the small things that focus on what may be most valuable to people around you.
2. Be structured, but also spontaneous
Like with most relationships, reaching out takes dedication, and discipline. Whatever you rely on to stay organized, whether it is a to-do list, a Trello board, or a CRM, make sure you are paying attention to when you last reached out. Be structured in the way you are connecting. When you do connect, think about what might have happened since your last contact—maybe they had a promotion, took on a larger scope of work, switched jobs, or switched geographies. Make sure you are able to relate on those terms.
While you want to have some structure, also be spontaneous. When somebody pops up in your psyche, “I was just thinking of you because of x”, follow through on that impulse. Never hesitate to drop a quick note with the context. I love receiving those messages – and others do too!
3. Be authentic
With COVID, partnership opportunities are evolving. There are people I've worked closely with in the past who have moved to parts of the country that Propeller doesn’t serve on a local basis. Now with more of us working remotely, I remembered how great it was to have these working connections. So, I reached out to say, ‘Hey, I just thought of you because you're probably impacted, you're all remote, we're all remote.’ It’s important to have an authentic voice and not shy away from why you’re reaching out.
Remember that even though people in our networks may not respond to us with every email, we add value to the relationship by reaching out. Don’t think if you didn’t hear back that you should never email them again. Partnerships don't work that way. Maybe a month later another piece of information that's interesting pops up in either one of your worlds, and a reconnect happens at that point. It‘s always worth the effort!
4. Offer help
Remember that those you are looking to build relationships with may be going through challenging times. Maybe you can help them with supportive words or a listening ear—or maybe you can think of more creative ways to support them.
At Propeller, we have been able to offer pro-bono consulting to some of our partners during this time. We strive to make sure that our not-for-profit partners receive support from us because they are working on critical initiatives, including those that can help the most vulnerable in the places we live and work. Our consultants always enjoy engaging themselves in stimulating projects and supporting their colleagues, so this creates a win-win dynamic of fulfillment, while continuing to strengthen our partnerships.
5. Ask for help
Remember that people love to support and be a source of positive influence on other people in their network. You might connect with your network by offering support, and that’s obviously a great thing to do. But don’t be afraid to balance your outreach—be vulnerable and try asking someone in your network for help.
True, authentic partnerships are two-way streets. Partnerships involve showing up in a way that is respectful of your partner’s expertise and point of view, and that means asking for their advice. In doing so you're validating them as a person, a thought leader, and a valuable part of your network. It proves that they are not just another email address or contact.
6. Acknowledge that partnerships can lead to business development, and vice versa
Strong partnerships can lead to business development, and it’s okay to acknowledge that! Authentically reaching out to people with thought leadership and interesting information, organically growing relationships with resonant touchpoints, and asking for guidance and direction are all ways to build partnerships. When we maintain that connection with people, the foundation for working together is already in place. Partnerships can lead to business if you're authentic in wanting to maintain an active, real connection with your partners.
In turn, business development can also lead to partnership development. Sometimes business development results in a professional introduction or a platform on which a solid partnership can grow. Supporting professional and career growth, and being aligned in making transformational change happen – these are instances where something that started off as a business connection leads to a lasting, valuable partnership.
Staying close to your partners and establishing new partnerships during this time is of utmost value. That means showing up in a number of different ways and thinking outside the box. It might feel like an awkward time to reach out with everything happening in our world, but if you reach out with authenticity, empathy, and support, then now is exactly the right time.