Create Lasting Professional Relationships in a Virtual World

According to the State of the Profession Report 2020, AESC Members voiced that their #1 focus to improve business performance this year was to build stronger client relationships. Yet with unexpected social, economic and health-related challenges brought on this year, building relationships in a virtual world takes on a whole new meaning.

Tom Cassidy, a Trainer at Working Voices, discussed building relationships with professional contacts at the Executive Research Forum 2020. Tom is a skilled Executive Coach and provides supportive yet challenging coaching on topics such as leadership, decision-making, and driving high performance.

Today, it’s important to approach every single encounter as a critical impact moment. Through storytelling, expertise, and charisma, you can approach each new conversation in a way that will make a lasting impact – even if it’s not in person. We spoke to Tom about how to do just that, and to share what he’ll be discussing during his session ‘Critical Impact Moments.’

Q&A with Working Voices Trainer Tom Cassidy on Building Trusted Relationships

Generally speaking, what do you think creates a memorable and interesting conversation?

There are two things, in my mind that create memorable and interesting conversations. Firstly, the conversation flows in a clear direction. So often conversations meander or go off in strange directions because both sides of the conversation are not paying attention to what the other is saying, rather planning or waiting for their turn to speak. Therefore the art of creating a memorable conversation is being present with what the other is saying and truly listening.  

Secondly, I think the interesting part of the conversation is when there is new information shared - discovering a new perspective, understanding a piece of data, or learning a new angle. This doesn’t always have to be throwing information at the other person, but simply taking a new approach, or asking an interesting question. Conversation is about creating a back-and-forth dialogue versus simply broadcasting to people.

When communicating with candidates, what is the role of storytelling in selling an opportunity?

Storytelling is the most powerful way to show both information and also emotion, evoke reactions, and connect with the candidate. Storytelling doesn’t necessarily only mean telling anecdotes. It means constructing a narrative that flows and has a blend of new information with emotions, characters, opportunities, and challenges. It fits perfectly into how people will relate to their careers and their growth. Effective storytelling uses imagination and also projects the person into the future through the vehicle of imagery. It can be very powerful and is a great skill to develop.

Is it easier or harder to have an impact in the virtual world we now find ourselves in?

This is a tough question because it depends on your outlook. On one hand, it is much harder if you approach the virtual world with the same assumptions as the physical world. The virtual world has some brilliant opportunities to connect, show enthusiasm and innovation, and rethink how the industry is currently operating. But it requires moving out of the old mindset. A quote I heard is: that the worse thing to do in a time of change is to approach it with the old logic. I think that applies beautifully here. One needs to be creative about how to have an impact.

An article in AESC’s Executive Talent magazine on ‘Executive Research Intelligence’ stated that executive research has moved firmly out of the backroom and onto the Internet. What are some opportunities for researchers that arise from having a stronger online presence?

For quite some time, I have said that diversity, inclusion, and giving people an equal voice and opportunity is the top issue of this decade. That has come to huge prominence recently. I would say that the opportunity for researchers to have more online presence is the chance to connect with a more diverse range of talent. Connecting with, seeing, introducing, and understanding many different people is surely a good thing for expanding the pool of what is available for roles. We are quickly moving away from the idea that all talent looks the same, thinks the same, or is from the same set of universities or experiences. Online is the way to access this.

How important is reputation in 2020 and how can you use your voice to influence how people see you?

I think that reputation is as important in 2020 as it has been in the past few years. The importance of reputation has not changed. Perception is reality, therefore how someone sees you is how you are to them. Treating your reputation as a precious commodity is vital. My sister is trying to teach my 6-year-old niece about being gracious in the lead-up to her 7th birthday. My niece told me that this means being kind, considerate, compassionate, and calm. I can remember my 7th birthday and I was probably not that kind or calm. I mention this because graciousness seems to be a great baseline to build a reputation from. Reputation is how you show your values to others.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to move from a ‘behind the scenes’ role into a client-facing role?

There is no substitute for being amazing at your job. If you want to move ahead, make sure that you have a clear idea of what is important to people like your boss, key stakeholders or clients. Then work hard and be patient. No amount of confidence or ambition will replace simply being great at what you do. My favorite example of this was from my top sport, rugby, in the lead up to the 2003 World Cup. The coach for England at the time, Sir Clive Woodward, said to the squad that to win the World Cup each of them needed to be the best player in their position and in the world. That was their mission. I think that is a pretty good attitude to move into whatever role you want in the future–be the best at your current role and show that you want to move ahead.

What is the one key learning you offered at the Executive Research Forum 2020?

Confidence is not as simple as it seems on the outside. I think it is made up of two things: inner self-belief and outward behavior. I call this the inner game and outer game. A lot of people come to me saying they want more confidence and they describe wanting a strong outer game. I think most of them are referring to improving their inner game. 


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