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How do you build relationships with cross-functional leaders

Building relationships with senior leaders in your office is a critical piece for your professional growth and the advancement of your ideas. There are little moves and big moves that help those relationships emerge. Begin with little moves if you think your direct leader does not want you prioritizing these activities.

Effective Communication

Little Moves:

1. Send an unsolicited email with helpful information or a suprise note of appreciation.

  • Do not ask for anything in return. Just give.

  • Share an article with relevant insights or an interesting piece of data with the leader. If you come across an article or industry insight that may be of interest to the senior leader, share it with them via email or during a casual conversation. This demonstrates your knowledge and a strong desire to help others be successful.

2. Socialize their name with others in informal meetings.

  • Talk about this leader's achievements to your team and others.

  • Give credit generously to this leader.

  • Pique other peoples' curiosity with some fun facts about the leader.

3. Meet their direct reports. If you have not been able to meet this leader yet, maybe it is better to get to know your peer who reports to them. Help your peer be successful.

  • Invite them to brainstorm with your team.

  • Offer to give a short briefing to them on a relevant project.

  • Get to know them personally and professionally.

4. Attend their events:

  • Attend training sessions or workshops they lead: Keep an eye out for training sessions or workshops conducted by the senior leader. Attending these sessions not only allows you to learn from their expertise but also provides an opportunity for direct interaction.

  • Participate in this leader’s events, such as workshops or social gatherings. These events provide opportunities to interact with the senior leader in a more informal setting. You can also meet the full team and show your support for their work.

After hearing the leader speak, amplify their message giving the leader full credit. Share the message informally on calls. Maybe like and share a post on the message over LinkedIn. Speak highly of this leader to other leaders and to their direct team.

5. Follow on social media: Connect with the senior leader on professional platforms like LinkedIn or Twitter. Engage with their posts, share relevant content, and interact with their online presence.

Big Moves:

1. Ask for a meeting with a purpose. This could be 20-minutes just to get acquainted in the beginning. Maybe you seek mentorship or ask for an informational interview. Politely request a brief meeting with the senior leader to learn more about their career path, experiences, and insights. Use this opportunity to establish a connection and show genuine interest in their work.

2. Leave a vm with a success story about their team or a team member.

3. Arrange a meeting for you and your boss to jointly meet with this leader. Show a united front with your boss, so that this leader understands that you have a great relationship with your leader.

4. Offer assistance: If you notice the senior leader working on a project or initiative, offer your support and expertise. This can be a chance to collaborate and build rapport. Volunteer for cross-functional projects. Take on assignments or projects that involve working with different departments or teams. This allows you to showcase your skills and interact with senior leaders from other areas of the organization.

In general, be proactive and approachable. A big move requires you taking the initiative to introduce yourself to the senior leader directly.

  • Be confident, respectful, and approachable.

  • Show genuine interest in their work and be open to conversations.

Remember, building relationships takes time and effort. Be patient and consistent in your interactions with senior leaders, and always prioritize professionalism and respect.

by Stephanie Bickel


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