In the sphere of sports business, relationship building is nearly as important as the results you produce. Exceeding corporate sponsorship sales quotas or accurately projecting your organization’s annual marketing budget are tangible results that look great come review time. The ability to present your accomplishments to management as a way to increase both your earning potential and respect amongst leadership is undeniably important. But good effort and solid results only fills in half the puzzle. The missing pieces are put in place when you start developing strong relationships with your peers and are on a first name basis with higher levels of management. The ranks of the sports industry are filled with people that are interconnected – it’s not unfair hiring practices, its networking and relationships. Strengthen your interpersonal skills, form strong bonds and you’ll go far.

Understand communicate styles. The ability to connect with people often starts with comprehending how others prefer to communicate. While you and your closest friend likely use similar communication styles, making you easily relatable with one another, colleagues at the workplace may not “talk” the way you do. If you adapt to their methods, you’ll find it gets you noticed easier and promoted faster. With phone, email, instant message chat and face-to-face discussion, there are a multitude of ways to collaborate with coworkers. You may be more comfortable firing off emails as questions arise but does your manager have time to sift through a dozen emails and reply to each one? If you notice he or she is slow to respond or requires a couple follow up check-ins, consider a new strategy. Maybe a 30 minute meeting to address your various questions takes up less of her day than writing up email responses. If you find that she’s more of a casual conversationalist, consider trying instant message chats to address your questions in a more rapid, real-time manner. Pay attention to how colleagues communicate with you and use the same method with them. It’s liable to get you quicker responses and will be much appreciated by those you work with.

Appreciate others their way. You help me solve a problem and typically my two word email reply – Thank you! – shows my gratitude. But to really make a connection in the sports industry, pay attention to how each individual best accepts appreciation. The 5 Love Languages, though most often applied to one’s relationships with friends and family, has application in the workplace. These love languages – gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, physical touch – are ways to hone in on what precisely motivates people. And studying how others interact with you will clue you in on what energizes them. A colleague that often stops by your desk to chat may appreciate a thank you lunch to have some one-on-one talk time. If you notice that your boss writes elaborate thank you notes to people, take time to pen an appreciative letter for her. And, while physical touch in the workplace is an obvious no-no, some people are hand shakers so make sure to greet them likewise. An act of service can be as simple as sitting with a new hire for a half an hour to teach them some tips and tricks. It can be as elaborate as realizing your boss is under pressure to bring overhead costs down and preparing a well-researched proposal for their consideration. The 5 Love Languages are just one of many ways to strengthen business relationships. Transform into a person that connects with each person as an individual and it will only enhance your impact with your organization.

Network up. You may not get much face time with your organization’s General Manager or Vice President of Business Operations. But find a way if you want to grow your responsibility and standing with the company. Attend work events that leaders go to. While top levels of management are often locked away in offices or on the road, they can be found if you purposefully seek them out. Go to post-work speaking engagements where you might share a conversation with someone that can play a key part in your upward mobility. Find a reason to meet with leaders to discuss big ideas or major process improvements. Be responsive to management requests. When a time sensitive project lands on your desk at 4:00, go the extra mile and knock it out – with quality – before morning’s dawn. Think like a leader, not a minion. When you make a decision, do it through the lens of what makes sense for the business, not what gets you home for dinner. Leadership can separate employees that work for Friday paychecks from ones that strive for organizational success. Be a team player but also be a team leader to wow those that steer the organization’s ship.

Treat peers like people, not problems. Impressing management is important. But the life and soul of a successful organization is the employees that create and innovate. To get ahead in sports business, become the kind of team player that lifts up those around you. It betters others while raising your own stock as a talent developer. You’re busy, right? Between meetings, urgently unexpected issues and oft-understaffed projects, you barely have time for your own work, let alone helping out those around you. But patiently sitting with a coworker to problem solve or promptly answering a newbie’s question does more than you may realize at the time. Being someone that others seek answers and guidance from casts a light on you, separating you from those around you. Be cognizant of your colleagues’ time too. When you need help, ask for it. Wasting time does no one any good. But do your due diligence first. Research your problem and come to people with potential solutions to prove you’re seeking assistance, not looking for someone to do your work. Respect your peer group and build relationships that will payoff for years to come.  

By Niral Patel

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