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Leadership Academy attendees learn to fortify relationships

Monday, March 11, 2013  
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More than 500 Network of Executive Women members learned to build positive, strategic relationships at work during the second 2013 Leadership Academy webinar, "Building Relationships of Trust,” March 7, 2013.

During the one-hour webinar, Carrie Deshaw, associate sales director, Target team at H.J. Heinz Company, and Kim Strong, vice president, diversity and inclusion at Target Corporation, shared their approaches to building trust in workplace relationships and forming an inner circle among colleagues. Career coach Jo Miller, CEO of Women's Leadership Coaching, moderated the session. 

"Trust is the foundation of every relationship,” Deshaw said. "It's the heartbeat of every successful relationship.”

Deshaw shared how she once inherited a new customer whose needs hadn't been met. She acknowledged each area of concern as a way of proving that they could go forward. "When you have those not-so-fun days when you say, ‘I can't stand it,’ you learn so much from the valleys,”she said. "Always add value. Do the right thing. Be true to yourself and stay committed to the destination. When you least expect it, you may be there.”

Strong said she once misspoke on a conference call, citing a "glitch in the system” that could be traced back to her working partner, who took the mention personally. "What I did on the next conference call was apologize for misspeaking,” said Strong. "I took the opportunity as a learning moment. My partner accepted the apology and we were able to repair the relationship.”

Strategies for building trust range from simple introductions to stepping up communication. For Strong, meet-and-greets help build strong relationships up front, even when meeting with people whose career value may not present itself at first. Professional relationships develop or change as time passes, she said.

Deshaw advised knowing when to pick up the phone and "raise the red flag.” Communicating with someone by telephone -- particularly when email has been the norm -- escalates a relationship; it's important to be specific as to why you need them.

The consumer goods executive also shared her respect for Golden Rule-type thinking when it comes to building trust. "Always look at it through that lens,” Deshaw said, "Don't ask others to do what you won't want to do.”

‘Micro’ manage your relationships

In relationships, "microaffirmations” and "microinequities” -- telling behaviors that include body language, communication styles, even quick conversations -- can make or break a relationship, Miller noted.

Deshaw stressed the importance of inclusion, even in everyday conversation. Engage others through their work, invite their input and complement them for anything they've done that has added value to the work experience.

Strong emphasized the significance of paying attention. Active listening makes a difference, as people can hear it in your voice when you're occupied with your email. Consistently letting people know you're engaged in their communication is a great step toward a positive cumulative impression.

Recognizing people who form your inner circle or "personal board of directors” is crucial, Miller said.  As an inner circle grows, the influence to lead grows along with it.

Strong’s inner circle includes five key figures: an external mentor, an internal mentor, a reverse mentor (who, despite less experience than the mentee, can offer substantial knowledge in specific areas), a sponsor and a peer confidante -- someone with whom information can be mutually trusted and shared.

Deshaw's inner circle has been tailored through her own experience and includes an internal adviser, an external adviser, a resident coach, an executive coach, a confidante and an "information powerhouse” or information-rich go-to person.

"Trust is personal,” Strong said. "It's your reputation; it's your brand. Everything aligns with how you want people to perceive you. Words carry how you act.”

"Look beyond the iceberg,” added Deshaw. "Look at the water. If you only look at the iceberg to navigate, you don't get below the surface. Understand the lay of the land. Every day, work upon it to build value.”

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