The art of relationship building,my story

I am part of the Idex Global Fellowship Programme.The programme seeks to help social intrapreneurs from across the world secure the best possible start to their careers. I would like to share some of my experiences on the programme and explain why I think relationship-building is the one key quality every future leader needs.

The Idex Global Fellowship Programme is, in my view, one of the most exciting opportunities of its kind in the world – but it is also one of the most challenging.

I joined the Idex straight from Zimbabwe in July 2017; with no previous international work experience .I was immediately given responsibility to handle major tasks. Don’t get me wrong: while the programme does throw you into the deep end, it is certainly not about being left to sink or swim. The program accords you all the support you need and ensures your learnings become opportunities to grow and succeed. Nevertheless, there is a clear expectation that you will start delivering real results within your given six months.

There are numerous things you can do to maximize your chances of success while on this programme, not least your own level of confidence, self-belief and a desire to achieve as much as you can. However, if there was one quality I had to pick out as outstanding and truly indispensable for people on the Idex programme and other similar fellowship programmes, it would be the ability to build relationships.

Why do I put relationship-building above all else?

Simple. Everything you deliver at work has to be delivered through people.

On my most recent assignment, for example, I was given responsibility to lead the outreach and marketing for the mayor essay contest and to reach out to change- makers in Bengaluru. This called for me create a stakeholder database, setting up a communication channel, and spearheading exciting initiatives, among other things. Here are some of the many ways in which relationship-building is helping me deliver against those goals.

Securing buy-in and support from readers

Citizen Matters(my placement) is still a very young organization and its fundraising ‘department’ even younger. A key part of my role, was therefore to provide support to my colleagues on expanding fundraising .In this interesting journey I am about to embark on, my colleagues have shown me how getting local, independent donors is a real benefit to the organization.

To this end, I attend weekly meetings, where I and colleagues will be providing updates on the day to day programming of marketing and fundraising .This involves explaining the impact of what we are doing as an organization and planning work using daily trackers. Through this approach I am able to gain in-depth knowledge and support of key colleagues from across the organization.

Making virtual teamwork, work

Citizen Matters is such a very techno-savvy organization that virtual connection with colleagues who are not in the same office, same city is not uncommon. My role is no exception; with many of the people I need to liaise with day to day at times working from various locations across the city (at times from home).

Given that I am still new and our organization is relatively small, I felt it was not enough for me to simply send emails and sit back for response. I instead embarked on using WhatsApp and Slack to engage with colleagues more directly and ensure we worked together more effectively as a team.

Creating a permanent network

One of the colleagues I find myself working very closely with, is the Technology and Operations Officer at Citizen Matters. I face some tricky challenges, particularly around complex computer operations.

What simplifies some of these challenges is the fact that colleagues at work have an already developed strong working relationship with interns from previous roles. As a result, we were able to collaborate effectively right from the beginning to developing innovative ideas for the organization.

This is why it always pays to build – and maintain – your relationships with key colleagues.

Achieving cross-cultural success

When I first made the move from Zimbabwe to India, there were some cultural differences that immediately struck me as an outsider. In Zimbabwe, for example, eating lunch alone is not uncommon, whereas in India I have discovered lunch to be a great communal event that involves chatting and sharing meals. I also wasn’t used to greeting strangers by a peck, which is an everyday occurrence here in India!

There is also the language barrier. The local language is Kannada, which I can barely speak or understand. However, I am making sure that I learn enough to do the basics and, as time goes by, I will get better at dropping more Kannada words into my speech. I find this to be a really effective way of easing any tense moments in my bus rides. Likewise, when guys from a nearby restaurant see me trying to establish a genuine connection with them, they seem to put more effort into making our relationship work.

These are just some of the ways my relationship-building skills will help me to succeed through the Idex Global Fellowship Programme. I imagine that I will be drawing on the experience long into the future. Citizen Matters is an organization that believes passionately in collaboration – across teams, across initiatives, across race and across cultures – and this encourages me to build relationships with colleagues across the board, no matter what level they may be in.

Keane Matenga
About Keane Matenga 4 Articles
Keane Matenga is a Idex fellow currently doing internship with Oorvani Foundation. Follow him on @keanemk.

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