It’s no secret that your relationships are the key to better business opportunities and new partnerships. Yet, between hybrid workforces, packed schedules, and personal obligations, maintaining these connections can be challenging, and before you know it, a great deal of time has passed since you’ve caught up with your network.
The good news is that it’s never too late to reconnect, says Dr. Chloe Carmichael, a psychologist who works with C-suite executives and author of Nervous Energy: Harness the Power of Your Anxiety. “It can be delicate if you haven’t been in touch, but there’s always an opportunity to strengthen a relationship,” she says.
Be open about the fact that, because of International Women’s Month, you’re thinking of the women in your network.
Dr. Chloe Carmichael
Author of Nervous Energy: Harness the Power of Your Anxiety
If you need an extra oomph of motivation, March marks International Women’s Month, a global celebration of the achievements of women. (International Women’s Day is March 8).
Use this time to reach out to the women in your life. “If you’re feeling awkward, don’t hide the ball,” Carmichael says. “Be open about the fact that, because of International Women’s Month, you’re thinking of the women in your network.”
Here, Dr. Carmichael shares her recommendations for strengthening connections and improving your business relationships.
1. Be honest about your intentions
If life has been busy and you haven’t reached out in a while, own it. “Try narrating your experience, where you take your inner feelings and say them out loud,” Carmichael says. For example, say, “Hey, Sue, I know it’s been a long time since we have been in touch. I think it was me who dropped the ball, but I’m thinking of you and would love to reconnect.”
2. Keep it personal
While a group text or email may feel efficient, it lacks intimacy. “It could feel like a mixed message and that you’re saying ‘Hey, I’m interested in you, but I couldn’t even take the time to copy and paste and tailor an individual message to you,'” Carmichael says. The only exception would be if you’re trying to spark a group get-together with former colleagues or your employee women’s group.
3. Schedule connection time
When you are busy with work, family, and personal obligations, it can be difficult to stay in touch with the women in your network. To ease the challenge, establish a regular check-in cadence. “If it’s a welcome reconnection, introduce the desire to make it happen regularly and find a way that it happens almost automatically, to take the pressure off,” Carmichael says.
Ask to make it a monthly or quarterly check-in and add it to your calendar immediately. Also, consider scheduling a walk-and-talk. “When you connect while you’re walking, it activates both sides of your brain and allows you to think about things differently and have new perspectives,” Carmichael says.
4. Build relationships within your company
Strengthening internal connections can be great boosters for your career. To do this, join employee resource groups, get active with company events, and say yes to lunch dates. If you’re feeling shy, use the framework of International Women’s Month to reach out. Carmichael recommends saying, “International Women’s Month has inspired me to get to know the women in my life, and you’ve been such a great colleague — I would love to connect.”
5. Be a connector
“We all have the power to connect someone to someone else we know to create something really fantastic,” Carmichael says. Think about how you can amplify the women in your life while opening connections to someone new. Plan an event where everyone has to bring along someone else that they admire and respect. Or, boost your own credibility and influence by connecting two people you believe would benefit from knowing each other. You could say, “Hey, I know this person who’s also really interested in X. Why don’t you get together and see what happens?”
6. Be a good ally to your female colleagues
The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is #EmbraceEquity. Support the cause by uplifting your fellow female coworkers. In a meeting, if you feel that someone’s input is being hijacked or credit is being taken, counteract it with public praise.
“Bring it back to the original person and find ways to highlight or share positive feedback about what your coworkers are doing or have done,” Carmichael says. In the meeting, you could say, “I know that this conversation actually originated with you, Minda, so do you want to tell us more about what sparked that for you?”
Additionally, you could email a compliment to someone on your team and copy lateral management to give that person the spotlight.
7. Ask the women in your life how you can help
Supporting one another will build better bonds. “Women are gatherers and communicators, and we like to connect with each other,” Carmichael says. To be most helpful, ask her what she needs. A new connection may want to boost her social media profile and would appreciate a photo share from your coffee date. For small business owners, writing an online review about their company may be the best amplification.