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How to Leverage Your Relationships in the Workplace

How to Leverage Your Relationships in the Workplace
Loneliness in leadership is all too common. According to a recent survey by Harvard Business Review, more than 50% of leaders feel lonely in their roles. While many believe that loneliness negatively impacts their ability to lead, most aren’t sure what to do about it.
 
Sadly, most leaders go it alone because they don’t know where to find safe relationships. In addition, many leaders fear that others are intimidated by them. This leads to feelings of isolation, and a vicious cycle of loneliness ensues.
 

How to Find Safe Relationships

 
If this sounds familiar, don’t be discouraged. Even as a leader, you can find and build high-quality relationships that support you in your personal and professional life.
 
Here are a few things to consider:
 
  1. Find other leaders in similar roles across various industries.
  2. Think beyond the “best friend” concept.
  3. Don’t be afraid to look beyond your workplace.
Let’s dive into these a little deeper.
 

Look Across Industry Borders

#1: You’ll be amazed at how much you can learn by connecting with leaders in other industries! The advantage of this approach is that, to a large extent, you will be understood. After all, leadership has its own sets of challenges that are common across all work environments. If you work in healthcare, you may be surprised to learn that a leader in manufacturing is facing the same challenges you are!

And, in this day and age, it’s never been easier to connect with people from other work environments. There are many groups and professional organizations that will support you as a leader. You can find them online, through Meetups, or through programs like Work Smart Network.

If you can’t find a group that interests you, consider starting your own. Keep it simple— just a consistent virtual meeting. You can even base it on a book or study. More than likely, you will be surprised at how many others are looking for supportive relationships too.
 
Think Beyond the “Best Friend” Concept
 
#2: It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you can’t work with your best friend. This may be true, but that doesn’t mean you can’t connect as friends with your coworkers on some level.

Within the workplace, it’s important to realize that different relationships may be appropriate for different aspects of your life. For example, if you and a coworker enjoy knitting, there is no harm in becoming “knitting buddies” who knit together at lunch or discussing the newest techniques and trends in the craft. Or, if you are raising a teenager, you may find that a different coworker (who also has teenagers) provides a safe space for family-related conversations.

The key to making these relationships work is boundaries. Most likely, these aren’t people you should confide in about work-related issues. But, by opening up on some level, you may find that your staff members are better able to respect you. They will sense your humanity and will be able to give you grace when you need it. In addition, it may help team members open up to each other as well.

Develop an Identity Apart from Your Job
 
#3: By looking beyond your workplace, you can develop your identity apart from your job. Believe it or not, this is incredibly important. If you feel that others in a social group will be intimidated by your role as a leader, downplay it in the beginning. As people get to know you, the leadership side of your personality will be less intimidating.

So, where do you find these groups? Focus on the things you love or want to learn. If you love to read, join a book club. Want to learn pottery? Take some classes. Live for hiking or skiing? Join a group that goes out on weekends.
 

You Have Options

 
The key takeaway is to realize that you have options. You don’t have to go it alone, even in leadership. So, get out there and find some new friends!

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