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Even relationships need a map

Relationships matter, and having strong relationships with the right people is critical to your professional success.

Recently, one of my executive coaching clients was seeking a promotion. We mapped out who she needed to know and what those contacts needed to know about her to help position her as the best candidate for the new role.

She then went on to create mutually beneficial relationships with these people. Not surprisingly, these individuals advocated on her behalf when the promotion opportunity came around and her name was in the mix.

Another of my clients needed to do a better job of selling his ideas within his organization. We developed a relationship map showing the key stakeholders he needed to convince and also showing how he could develop strong relationships with them. By being visible and providing value with these individuals, he was able to advance his project internally and succeed.

The relationship map is a useful tool to visually identify the key people and groups that need to be in your inner circle to support your success. This dynamic tool also helps you assess your relationship needs as well as gaps with these people and organizations.

So how do you go about creating a relationship map?

First, place your name in a circle in the middle of a blank sheet of paper. Then add circles around yours and label them with the names of people, companies, allies, customers, vendors, associations and others that you believe are important to your success. These can include people and entities that you do not know yet but that you need to know.

Next, draw a line between you and the person or entity to represent your current relationship with that individual or organization. A solid line means a strong relationship. A dotted line means that a relationship is in place but needs strengthening. No line means a relationship needs to be cultivated.

Finally, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are the strategic relationships that I need to develop to achieve my goal?
  • What do I need to do to strengthen existing relationships?
  • What do I need to do to develop relationships that I believe will be important to my success but that are not yet in place?
  • What can I do to develop relationships that will benefit me as well as the people on my relationship map?

A relationship map can be extremely useful because it lays out in graphic form your universe of relationships, especially as they relate to a specific issue or project. Relationship maps can confirm strong relationships, reveal connections that need work and open doors to new relationships along with specific techniques to develop them.

Remember that success in the professional world is not only a matter of who you know. It’s really about who knows and has strong relationships with you.

Pam Solberg-Tapper

Pam Solberg-Tapper, president of Coach for Success Inc., is a Duluth-based executive coach, professional speaker and adventure marathoner. For questions or to submit questions or ideas for future columns, please contact her at or (218) 729-0772.