You Are Hurting Your Career (and Projects) If You’re Not Doing This

The dirty little secret of business is that everything comes down to relationships.

If you’ve been in the workplace long enough, you’ve seen the power of relationships—in your own career and those of your co-workers. Chances are you got a job because of a relationship. Or were trusted to lead a project. Or got promoted.

Career Trajectory

I had a coaching client who went from Manager to Director to C-level in less than 5 years. He was competent, for sure. But he also had strong relationships at the C-level and I have no doubt it was those relationships (not amazing coaching) that blazed the trail for his fast-tracked rise in the organization.

It works the other way as well. Perhaps you or someone you know lost a job (or opportunity) because of a strained relationship. In Jeffrey Pfeffer’s book Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don’t, he’s clear: “The lesson from cases of people both keeping and losing their jobs is that as long as you keep your boss or bosses happy, performance really does not matter that much and, by contrast, if you upset them, performance won’t save you.”

Whether we agree things should be this way or not misses the point. Spend enough time in the workplace and you’ll see Pfeffer’s findings ring true. Your relationship with your boss matters—more than most people realize.

More Than Just With Your Boss

But it’s more than just your boss. Strong relationships with co-workers create greater trust which means work gets done faster. That’s the whole premise of Stephen M.R. Covey’s book The Speed of Trust. Good relationships with your team members help with engagement, retention, and just about every other measure that matters.

In the world of projects, the strength of relationships with stakeholders makes all the difference. They’re more likely to show up for meetings, advocate for your project, and speak honestly about their concerns…. if they like you, trust you, and respect you. And if they don’t? Your odds of successfully delivering are significantly diminished.

But you know all of this already. Maybe the Pfeffer point is new and somewhat depressing, but you’ve known for years that relationships matter, right?

Why Don’t We Do What We Know Is True?

After working with hundreds of executive coaching clients and speaking on the topic to audiences around the world, the biggest pushback isn’t that people disagree with the point. The reality is they don’t feel they have time to develop relationships.

Great idea—don’t have time to do it.

If you take nothing else away from this discussion, it’s this: you can’t afford to not do it.

In subsequent posts, I’ll share more ideas to help you build relationships without demanding too much time. For now, share your thoughts in the comments section. How have relationships helped you in your career? Let’s keep the conversation going. After all, that’s a great way to build relationships!

Andy Kaufman works with clients around the world to help them lead teams and deliver projects. He is the host of the acclaimed People and Projects Podcast which provides interviews and insights to help people lead and deliver. Learn more at or listen on any podcast app. If you have an upcoming large group meeting, learn more about having Andy speak at

I was first introduced to Jeffrey Pfeffer’s work mentioned in this article when reading Eric Barker’s book Barking Up The Wrong Tree. You can hear Eric talk about this in more detail in episode 180 (

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