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The short version: I placed five senior leaders in November last year.

The longer version: Ok, I acknowledge this is a bit of a ‘click bait’ headline so I apologise for this. But seeing as you are still reading, I believe this is a really useful article so stay with me please. This is not a Jordan Belfort-esque like story into becoming a gun executive recruiter – it’s a real-life story (or my journey) into the value of building trusted and valued relationships.

Let us first reframe the ROI of that single month for the analytical ones. Aspirational, eager and very young Houchell arrives in Sydney December 1998, and soon starts meeting / interviewing people within his chosen market. Some 22 years or 264 months on he has started to develop a pretty reasonable network and reputation. So yes, invoicing close to $1/4million in one month is a stellar result for many within the professional services world (utilisation being one key KRA), However, another way to look at this: this is it actually less than $1,000 per month of “my” investment into those key relationships built up over the past couple of decades – much more palatable or sobering to quantify it this way I think?

“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships” (Stephen R. Covey)

I acknowledge that in my profession having a high level of competence in relationship building is critical on both the sides of winning work and evaluating & advising talent. However, before the robots do take over all our jobs, I think many professionals would see massive benefits if they invested more in relationship building activities.


Why Have Good Work Relationships?

Human beings are naturally social creatures. And when you consider that we spend one third of our lives at work, it’s clear that good relationships with colleagues will make our jobs more enjoyable.

The more comfortable co-workers are around one other, the more confident they’ll feel voicing opinions, brainstorming, and going along with new ideas, for example. This level of teamwork is essential to embrace change, create, and innovate. And when people see the successes of working together in this way, group morale and productivity soars. Good work relationships also give you freedom. Instead of spending time and energy dealing with negative relationships, you can, instead, focus on opportunities – from winning new business to focusing on personal development. And having a strong professional circle will also help you to develop your career, opening up opportunities that otherwise might pass you by.


Defining A Good Relationship

A good work relationship requires trust, respect, self-awareness, inclusion, and open communication. Let’s explore each of these characteristics.

Trust: when you trust your team members, you can be open and honest in your thoughts and actions. And you don’t have to waste time or energy “watching your back”.

Respect: teams working together with mutual respect  value one another’s input, and find solutions based on collective insight, wisdom, and creativity.

Self-awareness: this means taking responsibility for your words and actions, and not letting your own negative emotions impact the people around you.

Inclusion: don’t just accept diverse people and opinions, but welcome them! For instance, when your colleagues offer different opinions from yours, factor their insights and perspective – or “cultural add ” – into your decision-making.

Open communication: all good relationships depend on open, honest communication. Whether you’re sending emails or IMs, or meeting face-to-face or on video calls, the more effectively you communicate with those around you, the better you’ll connect.


Which Work Relationships Are Important?

Although you should try to build and maintain good working relationships with everyone, some deserve extra attention. Like the relationship between a boss and employee, a manager alone can account for up to 70 percent of a team’s engagement. Regular one-on-ones  let managers build relationships with employees. At these catch ups, you can show how an individual’s work fits with the organisation’s “bigger picture,” understand their strengths, and help them identify areas to develop. You can also explore managing upwards to analyse how your own manager prefers to work, anticipate their needs, and adapt your approach for a smoother relationship. You’ll also benefit from developing good work relationships with key stakeholders. These are the people who have a stake in your success or failure, such as customers, suppliers, and your team. Forming a bond with them will help you to ensure that your projects and career stay on track. A stakeholder analysis can help you to identify who these people are so you can devote time to building these relationships / partnerships.


How to Build Good Work Relationships?

As you’ll know from your oldest friends, building close connections with people can take time. But there are also steps you can take today to get on better with your colleagues.

Identify your relationship needs – Do you know what you need from others? And do you know what they need from you? Understanding these needs can be instrumental in building better relationships.

Focus on your Emotional Intelligence (EI) – your ability to recognise your own emotions, and better understand what they’re telling you. By developing your EI, you’ll become more adept at identifying and handling the emotions and needs of others.

Practice mindful listening – People respond better to those who truly listen to what they have to say. By practicing mindful listening, you’ll talk less and understand more. And you’ll quickly become known as trustworthy.

Schedule time to build relationships – If possible, you could ask a colleague or past boss out for a quick cup of coffee. Or give a “one-minute kindness” by commenting on a co-worker’s LinkedIn post you enjoyed reading. These little interactions take time but lay the groundwork for strong relationships.

Manage your boundaries – Make time, but not too much! Sometimes, a work relationship can impair productivity, especially when a friend or colleague begins to monopolise your time. It’s important to set your boundaries and manage how much time you devote to social interactions at work.

Appreciate others – Everyone, from your boss to the intern, wants to feel that their work is appreciated. So, genuinely compliment the people around you when they do something well. Praise and recognition will open the door to great work relationships.

Avoid Gossiping – Office politics and gossip can ruin workplace relationships. If you’re experiencing conflict with someone in your group, talk to them directly about the problem. Gossiping with other colleagues will only exacerbate the situation, accelerating mistrust and animosity. And finally, my favourite and one that shapes some of the greatest relationship builders.

Be positive – Focus on being positive. Positivity is contagious and people gravitate to those that make them feel good.


Gavin’s expertise and passion lies in people & business growth. After studying Engineering, then Marketing and ongoing studies with the IECL, Gavin has created an extensive network and deep relationships with Executives who have engaged him for both Search & Selection and human capital advice across Australia since 1998.