Building Relationships Leads to Building Careers
Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Two recent posts on the HBR Blog network focus on how building relationships is major factor in one’s personal career development.

In “What Losing My Job Taught Me About Leadership,” Douglas R. Conant, former CEO and president of the Campbell Soup Company and founder and CEO of ConantLeadership, describes how he learned the power of connecting with people and being fully present — in every moment. Contant writes, “Too many leaders are so caught up in the momentum of work that they lose sight of the opportunity to connect with people. I discovered that the more fully present I was with other people, the more fully present they were with me, and the more productive our relationship became over time.”  


In an effort to build relationships, Contant advises professionals to honor the skills of fellow workers and acknowledge help when it is given. Why? When you're connecting with people, honoring them, and thanking them for their contributions, you'll naturally find yourself with a larger network — something you need not only to find a job, but to lead effectively in any job. 

Whitney Johnson, author of Dare-Dream-Do: Remarkable Things Happen When You Dare to Dream, concurs in her post,For a Career that Lasts, Build Real Relationships.” Johnson shares with readers a feeling of being used by an entrepreneur that a friend of hers had asked her to advise. There was no offer of reciprocation. She explains how in our growing modular and mobile world, the “love-em and leave-em” approach is becoming more and more common. And while it works in short-term, the model is unsustainable in the long-term.   

Johnson writes, “Starting at zero (or negative) every time, whether acquiring a new customer, supplier, or trading partner will drive operating costs ever higher. When we use people, or companies, with no thought for tomorrow, the transaction may be two-way from a functional perspective, but it's a one-way ticket to a financial and emotional island.” 

Bottom line: Through the process of building relationships—connection, collaboration, give-and-take, honoring others, and so forth—we are evolving ourselves and our careers.

About the Author

Ryann K. Ellis is an editor for the Association of Talent Development (ATD). She has been covering workplace learning and performance for ATD (formerly the American Society for Training & Development) since 1995. She currently manages ATD's Community of Practice blogs, as well as ATD's government-focused magazine, The Public Manager. Contact her at 

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