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Toolkit: Building Strong Professional Relationships
Law School Transparency
Introduction 00Back to Table of Contents
Strong professional relationships can further your career, fulfillment, and satisfaction. Whether you're among classmates, professors, work peers, supervisors, or people who might be helpful one day -- this report can help you build and make the most of these relationships.
Your personalized report contains the following chapters:
At Work Guidance: Tips to improve interactions with your colleagues, managers and subordinates at work.
Barriers & Challenges to Success: Situations or personality features that might get in the way of successful professional interactions.
Interaction Mistakes to Avoid: This chapter has been written to help someone else to interact with you. Self-awareness can help you avoid difficult situations.
Building Relationships & Networking: An activity to become a more effective networker and build strong professional relationships.
Meeting Effectiveness: An activity to help you become more effective in meetings.
Evaluating Career Options & Crafting a Career Plan: An activity to help your career search process.
At Work Guidance 01Back to Table of Contents
This section gives you tips about how to improve interactions with your colleagues, managers and subordinates at work.
Why it is important: Many people crave personalized guidance and mentoring at work - and this section provides just that in an automated fashion that is available on demand anytime a need arises. This guidance will help individuals, and their managers, be more effective at work.
Communication At Work Guidance
Talking to their Manager
Beth typically loves to be able to share in discussion of the theories and models she is using. It also works well for Beth to have her manager identify the theory or model being used as long as it is a logically accurate fit. Beth's pursuit of perfection, using the right models and holding herself to higher standards means that sometimes it is hard for her to provide deadlines for when tasks will be done.
Talking to Colleagues and Staff
Beth is typically great with helping colleagues develop their competence and understanding the theories of why they are doing it the way they are. Her focus on abstract theories sometimes misses the emotional support that certain coworkers need.
For Beth, she will often find a creative logical solution to implement rather than have the argument directly. When the argument does come up, then Beth is likely to focus on logical methods to finding a solution. If she has not found a workaround solution and the issue is left to fester, then sometimes it can result in an explosive argument.
Beth is typically very good at taking complex theories and finding ways to display and share them very effectively in her presentations. She typically does her best work on her presentation while alone or with only one or two other experts. If there are too many people involved in building the presentation or lots of emotional issues than Beth is likely to find working on the presentation very taxing.
Managing At Work Guidance
For Beth, it is typically very important that any goals being set fit into the logical situation at her work. Beth likely prefers focusing on goals that directly relate to her and her projects. If either setting the goals or achieving the goals requires a lot of interaction with others and is dependent on their success then Beth will likely be frustrated.
Beth is typically very good at understanding the correct ideal theoretical arrangement for the team. She is very good at understanding the logical order for the team that allows each person to expand their skills and still get the job done effectively. While Beth is typically patient with people as they learn new skills if a team member continues to make the same mistake repeatedly than Beth can become very frustrated.
Beth is likely to prefer leading by doing her best to help make sure each person is doing their best. She will probably have a focus on leading through a logical and rational approach. Sometimes her preference for logical approaches can leave others feeling disconnected.
Beth is likely to prefer delegating by gathering information and then determining what makes the most logical sense before delegating. Beth is probably most comfortable when everyone keeps things at a logical level. Her approach to gather information and confirm accuracy can sometimes not enough attention is paid to dates and deadlines.
Growing At Work Guidance
Beth is likely to work well with a high degree of independent time to refine the her projects. All her work towards perfection is likely to mean that when suddenly presented with a deadline she can adapt and produce well.
Beth is likely to really appreciate being given feedback that is logical and relates to process at hand. Beth is probably very good and continually refining her thinking as she gets more data. Beth may sometimes fail to give an appropriate reaction to emotional feedback.
Barriers & Challenges to Success 02Back to Table of Contents
What are several key barriers and challenges to success that are likely to recur during life for this person.
Barriers & Challenges
- Beth typically has a strong need for privacy, an intense interest in just a few areas, and a dislike of small talk, which may make Beth appear distant, anti-social, or confusing to her peers.
- She may be impatient with those who are less capable.
- Beth may walk away from situations she sees as unjust, unfair, illogical, or not relevant to her.
- If pushed Beth may also challenge authority for the same reasons.
- Managing time, deadlines and completion are often problematic.
- Concentrating on theory she may miss the important details.
- Beth can appear compliant whilst ignoring what she sees as stupid rules.
Interaction Mistakes to Avoid 03Back to Table of Contents
What to avoid when interacting with this person.
More Likely Beth
Less Likely Beth
Things to Avoid When With Beth:
- Beth prefers communication that doesn't pressure her to make an immediate decision
- Avoid interrupting her
- Telling Beth what to do without consulting her is irritating to her
- Don't assume Beth has nothing to say just because she isn't talking
- Don't overpower her with your style
- Beth dislikes changing the plan or rushing ahead with no plan
- Refrain from getting side tracked in interactions with Beth
- Avoid invading her space
- Stay away from too much small talk
- When doing something with Beth, don't jump in without thinking things through
- Avoid saying nothing or being non-committal to Beth
- Stay away from criticizing her ideas before you have given positive feedback
- Don't show reluctance to participate with Beth
- Beth prefers communication that doesn't go too slowly or get stuck on details
- Telling Beth what to do without involving her is irritating to her
- In working with Beth, avoid a lot of discussion without action
- Beth prefers not too much talking
- Don't go off the point
- Avoid making small talk before the task has been dealt with
- Stay away from competition with her
Original work by: Catherine Stothart © Step Research Corporation
Building Relationships & Networking 04Back to Table of Contents
Helping a student maximize their strengths in building relationships and networking
Troubleshooting Common Problem Behaviors and Shifting Perspectives
Beth can address her limiting belief by taking a proactive approach. When taking part in a discussion, she can say:
- "What brought you here today and what makes being at this event worth your time?"
- "What’s most challenging about this subject, what do people struggle to master when looking into this topic?"
- "What is the most surprising thing you have seen or heard so far today and what makes you curious to learn more?"
Beth can show interest this way even if she feels out of place making casual conversation. She can also use other peoples’ responses as a basis for her next comments or to spur conversation.
- Explain to Beth that people often feel that they need to act out of character to succeed in networking situations. Although it’s important to put one’s best foot forward, this can be achieved without trying to act like someone else. To help Beth resist the temptation to put up a false front when meeting new people, encourage Beth to develop an alternative mindset.
- Tell Beth “Networking is a low stakes but high potential opportunity to form and/or strengthen helpful connections. You will be most successful when you practice being professional by:
- Being yourself, realizing that this is the best way to find and match yourself to those who can use and appreciate your special characteristics.
- Valuing others’ input while recognizing that no matter the result or ultimate benefit to you of any interaction, it’s always best to approach the process with courtesy and respect.
- Politely excusing yourself if a conversation doesn’t seem fruitful by thanking others for their time before moving on to find another person to speak to – knowing that this is perfectly acceptable and that your courtesy is not only the right thing to do, but can result in your being remembered favorably, helping you in the future.
- Along with practicing professionalism, support Beth’s efforts to adopt this new mindset by suggesting she adds her “special sauce” to the networking experience by:
- Listening, keeping the conversation going by asking questions which call for more information and showing interest by giving others time to speak.
- Making the most of the conversation by asking questions about general themes and sharing ideas and inspirations.
- Analyzing the logic behind any data presented and striving for, as well as seeking, precision and clarity when sharing ideas or considering the ideas of others.
- Helping others through sharing expertise.
A simple strategy that can help Beth be more confident in networking is for her to be ready to share some of her best qualities. Having prepared a quick, simple statement about what makes her special is a great help to both Beth and the person with whom she is trying to network. It adds clarity to the interaction and helps put people at greater ease.
Three adjectives likely to describe Beth well are:
Analytical, truth seeking and rational
Tell Beth that being able to identify and talk about her unique strengths is more meaningful and powerful than merely reciting from her resume or simply listing her skills. Encourage Beth to use these three words when asked to share something about herself, preparing examples from her own life to illustrate these characteristics.
Practice new skills: Homework/In-Session Activity
Because networking is so often misunderstood, it’s important to demystify it. These activities will help Beth become more skillful at, and less intimidated by networking – challenging her assumptions and showing her how to apply what she has learned. Networking, by its very nature, is about doing. The two activities provide a starting place for Beth to develop, and hopefully enjoy, this highly useful practice – giving her a means to tap into resources she might not have realized she has.
- Tell Beth that networking isn’t just about going to large gatherings and talking to strangers. Networking is happening anytime and anywhere people are connecting and learning more about each other. Brainstorm a list of her connections with Beth to help her see that she already has a network, one made up of people such as in the list below.
- Ask Beth to select three or four items from the list of questions below and then tell Beth to try them out the next time she meets with someone from the list of people just generated. Tell Beth to use this as a way to learn more about the people she knows and deepen her connections with them.
- Use the results of this exercise to show Beth that she has many more resources than she might have thought and that there are always new things to learn from the people she already knows. Taking the opportunity to begin networking with people who already care about her can help Beth to feel more poised and positive about her relationship-building and networking skills.
Networking Really Is About Who You Know
Instructions For Using This
- Networking isn’t just about going to large gatherings and talking to strangers. Networking is happening anytime and anywhere people are connecting and learning more about each other.
- Brainstorm a list of your connections:
- Write them out on the bottom half of the page or use Polish
- Start with any people who fit into the categories below:
- Friends and acquaintances, including neighbors past and present
- Teachers past and present
- Coaches past and present
- Fellow members of her/his faith community, club, sports team, hobby group, community organization, social media platforms, etc.
- Select three or four items from the list of questions below
- Try them out the next time you meet anyone from the list of people just generated.
- Use this as a way to learn more about the people you know and deepen your connections with them.
I can enhance my connection with others using the following questions:
- What helped them to stick with classes where they didn’t respect the teacher?
- What helped them to stick with classes with a boring teacher?
- What helped them to stick with classes with a disorganized teacher?
- What helped them to stick with classes where they didn’t like the teacher?
- How did they figure out how to convince people that they had a good idea?
- How did they figure out how to convince others to take action?
- How did they figure out how to stand up for what they believe in when others disagreed?
- How did they figure out how to convince others that it is important to pay attention to how people feel about a plan?
- What helped them to be more disciplined about...?
- What helped them to be more relaxed about...?
- Tell Beth that a great way to increase her networking skills is to look at what is already going well for her and then make an effort to do more of those things that make her feel good and have led to successful results. This sort of appreciative, glass-half-full approach, with its focus on the positive, typically energizes people much more than looking at what’s wrong or not working.
- Ask Beth to complete the two stems below by selecting two or three items from the list of verbs, and two or three from the list of adjectives that describe her behavior when she felt really engaged in and excited about building relationships and/or networking.
- Have Beth choose one item from her list of verbs and one item from her list of adjectives and describe two ways she can practice these two approaches to building relationships and networking more often. Having a plan of action to develop the networking skills that Beth sees as vital should increase her confidence and make her networking more authentic and effective. This can be homework or you can work on it together in the session.
- Use the results of this exercise to show Beth that she has reasons to feel more poised and positive about her relationship building and networking skills.
- As a follow-up you may want to ask Beth about those areas that she finds difficult or less natural when networking. One way to facilitate this is to ask Beth about some of the verbs and adjectives that she did NOT choose in step 2. Often the things that are off-putting to us can help us learn about both our blind spots and our fears and serve as a means to figuring out how to manage them, as well as open us up to considering areas that seem like a stretch, but if given the opportunity, might be interesting and fun to try out.
An Appreciative Approach to Networking
Instructions For Using This
- A great way to increase your networking skills is to look at what is already going well for yourself and then make an effort to do more of those things that make you feel good and have led to successful results. This sort of appreciative, glass-half-full approach, with its focus on the positive, typically energizes people much more than looking at what’s wrong or not working.
- Complete the two stems below by selecting two or three items from the list of verbs, and two or three from the list of adjectives that describe your behavior when you felt really engaged in and excited about building relationships and/or networking.
- Choose one item from her list of verbs and one item from her list of adjectives:
- Describe two ways you can practice these two approaches to building relationships and networking more often.
- Having a plan of action to develop the networking skills that you see as vital should increase your confidence and make your networking more authentic and effective.
- What reasons do you have to feel more poised and positive about your relationship building and networking skills?
- Follow up:
- Which of the verbs or adjectives do you find more difficult or less natural when networking?
- It might be easier to start this by thinking about the verbs and adjectives that you did NOT choose in step 2
- Often the things that are off-putting to us can help us learn about both our blind spots and our fears and serve as a means to figuring out how to manage them, as well as open us up to considering areas that seem like a stretch, but if given the opportunity, might be interesting and fun to try out.
I can enhance my networking by appreciating my strengths:
When I feel best about networking, I am...
sharing general impressions
sharing details and specifics
searching for inconsistencies
searching for points of agreement
During networking it is very important for me to be…
Meeting Effectiveness 05Back to Table of Contents
These describe various ways to become more effective in meetings
Practice new skills: Homework/In-Session Activity
- Look through the 4 preference sections below, scanning the ways to be more effective.
- Choose one of the 4 preferences to work from.
- Choose 3 of the "Ways to be more effective" in that preference to practice.
- Create an action plan for applying these suggestions:
- When can I practice this suggestion...
- What specific actions will I do differently in a meeting...
- Continue to try out these specific action plan for a month and then repeat again with a different preference or suggestions.
Preference for IntroversionThe opposite is called Extraversion
Ways to be more effective in meetings:
Ask for an agenda and the meeting material before the meeting so that you can prepare how you will contribute to the conversation.
- Talk more
Speak up. Share your point of view. Do not wait too long. Interrupt when it is necessary, even if it feels uncomfortable. Show your enthusiasm – do not keep it to yourself.
- Resist pressure
Be patient if others try to finish your sentences or insist that you say something. Point out that you need a moment to think.
- Be patient with thinking out loud
Do not assume that those who talk a lot during meetings are not interested in your input. They are probably working through an idea by talking about it, or they expect you to contribute when you have something to say.
- Use your body language
Maintain eye contact with the person speaking and show with your body language that you are interested in what he or she is saying. Nod, smile, lean forward.
Accept that sometimes the best way to understand a new situation is to engage in it and learn from the experience.
- Accept the need for a meeting
Remember that people who prefer E are energised by social interaction, and that they think best when talking or sharing with other people. They may also want to meet face to face to ensure that everyone is on the same side. Accept it, even if you do not yourself consider it necessary to meet.
Preference for IntuitionThe opposite is called Sensing
Ways to be more effective in meetings:
- Stick to the point
Restrain your urge to look for associations, related topics and “what-if”s during discussions. Stay focused on the specific issue under consideration.
- Stay attentive
Focus on the discussion and the meeting also while discussing specific, concrete issues and facts. Do not let your thoughts wander off.
- Be realistic
Even though you believe that something is not working as well as it could, be open to a discussion of whether the benefits of the change outweigh the costs. Remember also that small changes are easier to implement than big ones.
- Draw on experience
Include past experience and expertise in discussions when something needs to be changed. Ask about others’ experience.
- Listen to objections
If others are hesitant about changes, assume that they have a good reason, and encourage them to express their concerns. Take objections about feasibility seriously.
- Explain more
Put more words on your insights than you find necessary. People who prefer S tend to think that the contributions of those who prefer N are too jumpy and incoherent. Help them understand how your ideas will work in practice.
- Leave time for concrete information
Be sure to provide enough details to the people who prefer S at the meeting to ensure they have an adequate basis for discussion. Be patient with their need to talk about the details, and then gently bring the discussion back to the task at hand.
Preference for ThinkingThe opposite is called Feeling
Ways to be more effective in meetings:
- Create a good setting
Start the meeting by making an effort to create the right atmosphere. Do not jump right in. Allow the participants to find their legs.
- Soften your language
Avoid blunt communication unless the situation requires it. Tone down your language so that others do not switch off because you said it “that way”. Be friendly.
- Establish ”common ground”
In a discussion firstly talk about areas of agreement that way establishing ”common ground” maintaining a good atmosphere. Focus on expressing the positives before the negatives – otherwise people who prefer F may believe you are opposed to an idea, which can demotivate them.
- Allow room for values and subjective data
Remember that those who prefer F tend to make better decisions when they include personal values. Accommodate this at the meeting.
- Pay attention to feelings
Focus on others’ feelings and needs, both at the meeting and in regard to the decisions being made. Make an effort to understand and incorporate others’ points of view when making a decision, even if you disagree with what they have said.
- Combine logic with values
Use your own personal values to complement your logical arguments and analyses, especially when discussing decisions that affect people. People who prefer F are more likely to be persuaded by arguments which incorporate values and not just pure logic.
Preference for PerceivingThe opposite is called Judging
Ways to be more effective in meetings:
- Be on time or before
Have a list of small tasks on your mobile you can work on to avoid the feeling of ”wasting your time” before the meeting starts.
Do not let your desire to gather more information and keep your options open keep you from making a timely decision.
- Leave time to organise
Understand that your need to try several different approaches can overwhelm people who prefer J. Allow time for a discussion on how to organise, so they do not switch off.
- Control the improviser
Try not to rely so much on your ability to improvise that you reach the point where you avoid planning. Remember that people who prefer J take plans seriously.
- Volunteer to initiate the process
Offer to take on tasks in the initial phase of a project when your energy level and your enthusiasm are at their peak.
- Control your inner time optimist
Be realistic about the time it will take for you to complete a task, so you can keep your promises.
- Keep an eye on the agenda and the time
Be careful not to stray too much from the agenda, and do not reopen decisions unless it is crucial. Be realistic about what you can achieve at the meeting. Sometimes there is no time to consider a subject from all angles.
- Be aware of deadlines
Listen for agreements on deadlines at the meeting and write them down. Ask when others expect your input.
Z-Process Problem Solving 06Back to Table of Contents
Explains the Z-Process model of problem solving work problems in the context of Visual Type™
What is the Z-Process
It is a decision making framework based on the Jungian cognitive functions. The Z-Process focuses on working through the four ways people gather information and the four ways they make decisions. The Z-Process aligns with Visual Type™.The relative size of the boxes in Visual Type™ can be a good representation of how much time a person is likely to focus on the complementary questions and often skipping questions in the smallest boxes
Why Use The Z-Process
- Because you have an important decision to make
- You are aware of your own strengths and weaknesses
- To make sure and fully consider the problem from key perspectives
- You dont' want to overlook critical aspects to the situation
- You want to communicate to others of different perspectives
- You want to persuade others...
- that their perspective will be taken into account
- that you have really considered the problem
- to address the problem with your solution
How To Use The Z-Process
- Be clear about what problem or decision you are addressing
- Go through each of the 8 perspectives in order
- Answer any suggested questions that apply and are relevant to the situation
- Add more questions for each perspective that are specific to the problem
- It is more important when working through the process to get all the key questions than answer them immediately
- Get feedback from others
The more important the decision the more important it is the get feedback from others with different experiences or perspectives
- When collaborating with others it can be useful to show your Z-Process work.
Show them the work done to develop questions and get answers across all 8 perspectives. Four ways to gather information and four ways to make decisions.
Additional Resources on Decision MakingThere are a lot of great resources available on making better decisions using a variety of frameworks. The Z-Process framework is most valuable when you need to take into account personality conflicts or different ways of seeing a problem and making decisions.
- Winning Decisions: Getting It Right the First Time by J. Edward Russo and Paul J.H. Schoemaker
The Z-ProcessDownload Double-Sided Reference Sheet for Print
Download Worksheets for Print
Look to the present and immediate needs and explore what is currently available
Experiencing the immediate context; noticing changes and opportunities for action; being drawn to act on the physical world; accumulating experiences; scanning for visible reactions and relevant data; recognizing “what is”
- What is the current situation?
- The key facts as they stand right now.
- What are the available resources?
- What are the current constraints?
- Who are the people?
- What are the current deadlines?
- What is the financial status?
- What are the time constraints?
- Does more information need to be gathered?
- Have the involved parties been interviewed?
- Has someone visited the location?
- What additional locations are available?
- What additional resources could be acquired?
Look to the past, traditions and what worked and focus on consistency
Reviewing past experiences; “what is” evoking “what was”; seeking detailed information and links to what is known; recalling stored impressions; accumulating data; recognizing the way things have always been
- What lead to the situation?
- What has been tried before?
- The history.
- What has lead to the current status?
- What has been done in the past?
- How has this problem been solved before?
- Why are we in this spot?
- Why did things happen as they did to end up here?
- What is repeatable?
- What precedents have been set?
- What is different than before?
- What was done well?
- What was done poorly?
Look to the new and different ideas and explore many possibilities
Interpreting situations and relationships; picking up meanings and interconnections; being drawn to change “what is” for “what could possibly be”; noticing what is not said and threads of meaning emerging across multiple contexts
- What outside solutions can be used?
- What new ideas might be applied?
- What are the patterns involved?
- Are there solutions from similar industries?
- Are there ideas from other areas of the company?
- Are there patterns to the situation challenges?
- What commonalities exist?
- What other areas might solutions come from?
- What can be changed?
- What are the business trends?
- What are the trends of the problem?
- What options are not being considered?
Look to how things connect, the future and predict possible outcomes
Foreseeing implications and likely effects without external data; realizing “what will be”; conceptualizing new ways of seeing things; envisioning transformations; getting an image of profound meaning or far-reaching symbols
- Where do we want to be?
- What fits the long-term strategy?
- Visualize the future.
- How do all the elements fit together?
- What solutions address all issues?
- Is it in line with our long term strategy?
- What are the long term implications of the problem?
- What new perspectives can be used?
- What does a long term solution look like?
- What is the essence of the problem?
- What is the core need that should be addressed?
- What is a one year solution?
- What is a five year solution?
Decide based on measurable goals and drive towards objectives
Segmenting and organizing for efficiency; systematizing; applying logic; structuring; checking for consequences; monitoring for standards or specifications being met; setting boundaries, guidelines, and parameters; deciding if something is working or not
- What is the measurable goal?
- What are the core action steps?
- Is there a step-by-step action plan?
- What do people have to do to reach the goal?
- What are the measurable objectives?
- What intermediate objectives need to be met?
- Which measurement is most important for the goal?
- What are the deadlines?
- How long do core actions take?
- When do tasks need to be started?
- What are the priorities of metrics and objectives?
- Who is responsible for each step?
- Which steps require more detail?
Decide based on logically correct or incorrect and evaluate the best approach
Analyzing; categorizing; evaluating according to principles and whether something fits the framework or model; figuring out the principles on which something works; checking for inconsistencies; clarifying definitions to get more precision
- Do the goals and steps logically fit the problem?
- Are there more efficient methods?
- Will the steps logically reach the measured goals?
- What are the probabilities of success and failure?
- What anomalies exist in the info and plan?
- How should the information be categorized?
- What parts of the plan are inefficient?
- Are all parts of the plan clearly understood?
- Which steps have the greatest risk?
- What other factors will logically impact results?
- What is the logical implication of the actions planned?
- What are the unforeseen consequences of the plan?
- What can be altered to make it more effective?
Decide based on people's needs and empathize with others
Connecting; considering others and the group—organizing to meet their needs and honor their values and feelings; maintaining societal, organizational, or group values; adjusting and accommodating others; deciding if something is appropriate or acceptable to others
- How will people react?
- What is the best way to explain it to them?
- What is the "Customer Experience"?
- How will people feel about this?
- Does it show that we care?
- Are others personal needs met?
- How do we avoid conflict/frustration?
- Are we using the right words?
- Are we providing immediate motivation?
- How will customers see this?
- How will employees sees this?
- How well do people understand the steps/process?
- Do the instructions cause confusion?
Decide based on ethically right or wrong and sync with individual values
Valuing; considering importance and worth; reviewing for incongruity; evaluating something based on the truths on which it is based; clarifying values to achieve accord; deciding if something is of significance and worth standing up for
- Will this build trust/loyalty/commitment?
- Does this align with company/brand values?
- Is it ethically right or wrong?
- Is this the right brand for the company?
- How do we engage intrinsic motivation?
- Will this be perceived positively in the future?
- Which of people's needs is being addressed?
- Will people feel they are contributing to something important?
- Will people feel the communication is authentic and truthful?
- Is the tone correct?
- Is this believable by customers and builds trust?
- Is this believable by employees and builds trust?
- How will this affect longer term connection and engagement?