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Your Colleagues Are Your Most Important Clients

The small stuff is the big stuff when it comes to intraoffice relationships.

Do you consider yourself to be a good colleague?

If so, when was the last time you asked for feedback from your colleagues and, especially if you’re in a leadership position, from those for and to whom you’re responsible?

This simple practice actually illustrates a number of important considerations that are implied within it but must be made overt and explicit. For example, do you behave in a way that leads your colleagues to feel sufficiently safe and comfortable to share the whole truth of their perceptions and experiences with you? Further, have you demonstrated a commitment to act on what they share? Finally, do you ask for this input regularly (including periodically if not at a specific interval)?

If you’re like most advisors, you probably survey your clients and ask them for feedback from time to time, but what about your "internal" clients (i.e., colleagues and associates)? They, too, are an important constituency that you serve; perhaps, as the research indicates, the most important one, at least if you seek to create a positively competitively differentiating client experience.

This is a strategic approach to maximizing your contribution to your practice/firm, but let’s consider some tactical ones to complement it:

First, are your relationships with your colleagues primarily transactional or do they include an authentically relational component?

In all likelihood, if you’re seen as a transactional relator, then whatever your intent, your impact will be muted. Think about it: Do you go out of your way for people who come to you only when they need something and seem not to value or care about you otherwise?

Am I suggesting that you need to be best friends with everyone with whom you work? No, not at all, and especially so if you’re in a leadership position. Yet, just like with clients, you do need to know your colleagues reasonably well enough to be able to serve them in idiosyncratically resonant and impactful ways. You don’t have to hang out together on the weekends, but you do need to have some understanding of who they are outside of the office so that you understand the context in which they operate within it.

Next, do your actions suggest that you have a commitment to others’ success as well as your own? Do you help them only when they ask or do you offer your perspective on an unsolicited basis from time to time? The idea is not to be an oversharer (no one likes these folks!), but it is to be a supportive colleague if you notice something material of which he appears not to be aware or perhaps of which he may be insufficiently appreciative.

Finally, do you celebrate your colleagues for their contributions and/or the milestones in their lives and careers? For example, do you know their birthdays and/or their work anniversaries and then congratulate them on these special days? As a regular practice, do you thank them informally for their contributions to your mutual success? What about formally: When’s the last time you’ve written an email—or, preferably, a handwritten note – to recognize and thank a colleague for her contributions to the successful completion of a project or to recognize his five-year anniversary at the firm?

Think about it: Do you appreciate it when people take the time to go out of their way to express gratitude or congratulations to you? Even if you don’t, I’m virtually certain that you agree that most people do, so this, too, is an opportunity to help you develop stronger relationships with colleagues that’ll lead to more and more meaningful mutually beneficial outcomes.

Ultimately, are any of the preceding earth-shattering, cutting-edge strategies? No: In fact, they’re as old as the ages … and still supremely impactful, which is the point. It’s easy in our fast-paced, high-tech world to forget the human aspects of our associations, but, in fact, these remain primary.

Walter K. Booker is the chief operating officer of MarketCounsel, a business and regulatory compliance consultancy for investment advisors.

TAGS: Careers
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