Career Leadership Small Business

From Significance To Success

Guest post by William Smullen, author of Ways and Means for Managing Up.

One of the reasons I was drawn to a career in the military was being surrounded by incredible men and women of all ages, ranks and positions.  Some were senior, others junior to me.  All were significant and important to me.

Because most assignments lasted but a few years, there was a sense of urgency to build successful relationships quickly with people before they or I moved on to the next place, be it a new community or another country.

Building those relationships was the important first step.  Maintaining those relationships was an even more critical requirement because there was a good chance paths with colleagues would cross multiple times over the years.

Working for General and then Secretary Colin L. Powell for 13 years in various capacities put me through the relationship building test on a daily basis.  Many people wanted him or wanted to get to him for a host of reasons.  Often I was their first stop with a phone call, a letter, or a visit with the ask.  His image and reputation were on the line with the answer and how I treated the requesting party.

Never a quick dismissal; always a thoughtful, caring response.  Taking time to listen was important, providing a prompt reply was especially helpful to the requester.

To this day I invest heavily in getting to know people from all walks of life. Expressing sincere interest in who they are, what they do, what they like or need from me are essential elements of both the construction and maintenance of a friendship or association.

It is not a popularity contest, but it does serve to gain respect from those you have befriended personally or professionally.  In the 50 short chapters of my book, Ways and Means for Managing Up, I lay out strategies for success in the workplace.

Chapter 43 describes a boss who destroyed chances for a successful relationship with a subordinate by chastising her in front of her fellow workers.  It was a sure fire recipe for failure and a “do unto others” moment lost.

Being a boss comes with the responsibility for creating caring and trusting relationships.  That is as much about giving as it is about getting.  It doesn’t take much to be pleasant to others, and it can serve to foster a successful relationship.

F. William Smullen III is director of National Security Studies at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and professor of public relations at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. Former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, Smullen was a professional soldier whose career included a series of infantry command and staff assignments at the platoon company battalion brigade and division level.

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