In this crazy world of competing deadlines, priorities, sound bites and instant communication technology it sometimes seems harder than ever to nurture the important relationships in our lives. We are all under such pressure to perform and to achieve that there is little time left in the day to reach out and show someone we care. 

“The energy between two people is what creates great marriages, families, teams, and organizations. Yet, when we think consciously about improving our lives, we put almost all of our effort into self-development.” (Tom Rath, Vital Friends)

It’s easy to forget that there really isn’t anything more important than our relationships – with friends, family, colleagues, clients, and contacts. These are the building blocks of a successful life – no matter how you choose to define success - be that wealth, status, achievement or happiness.

Nurturing your relationships with clients, colleagues and staff at your office is one of the most important activities to focus on. You can call it leadership, rainmaking or client service, but ultimately it always comes down to how well are you taking care of the important relationships in your life?

Many lawyers have told me that when they call their former clients just to check-in it frequently results in the client sending over a new file.

To help busy professionals with managing their relationships I have developed a list of quick and easy tips for deepening relationships and scoring points in the caring department. 

  1. Make yourself a weekly “touch list”. On Sunday afternoon, or first thing Monday morning jot down the names of the few people you want to get in touch with over the week. Keep the list by your computer and in between assignments take a minute to contact the people on your list. The people on your list will depend on what your focus is on during a given week. If you want to develop your rainmaking skills then put the names of past clients on your list, or old contacts you have fallen out of touch with, or the name of that person you had a great conversation with at a networking event last month.

  2. Send your clients or contacts an informative article or link on a topic of interest or importance to them. To help you find articles and news items try setting up a Google alerts (http://www.google.com/alerts). Google Alerts are email updates of the latest relevant Google results (web, news, etc.) based on your choice of query or topic. It takes about two minutes to set one up. Think about the people you want to get in touch with. What are their interests? What information could be helpful for their business, or for them personally? Send them legal insight that is going to valuable for them, and write in a lanaguage that can be easily read and understood.

  3. Use your lunch hour to invest in relationships. Set up a lunch date with someone on your touch list. One associate I know organizes a monthly lunch for a group of her law school alumni, it’s a great way to stay in touch with twenty people each month. Even though not everyone can attend each month they all receive an invitation. 

  4. If you still haven’t read it, pick up a copy of Keith Ferrazzi’s book Never Eat Alone for tips on relationship building.

  5. Pick up the phone and have a quick catch up with someone on your touch list. Find out what’s new in their life. Many lawyers have told me that when they call their former clients just to check-in it frequently results in the client sending over a new file. Also, anytime you give anyone advice you have a great reason to follow up and ask “how did that go?” “How did that workout for you?”

  6. If you don’t have time for lunch then go for coffee. Now that spring has arrived, get out for a quick coffee and catch up with a contact.

  7. Invite someone to go for a walk. This gives the benefit of a little easy exercise along with the social interaction.

  8. Send a card. With so much business conducted on-line these days, the value of a handwritten card has gone up exponentially. Keep a collection of blank greeting cards at your desk. Each week take a few minutes to pen a brief note to someone on your touch list. Personal touches of this kind have a very high impact these days. Nothing says caring like a hand-written note. There doesn’t have to be a special occasion it can just be a simple message that says “Wasn’t that a beautiful weekend we just had? I hope you had the opportunity to get into your garden. What have you got planned for it this year?”

  9. The best way to show you care is to listen. Whether you are out for a walk, or a cup of coffee, or just talking on the phone, the greatest gift to give is your undivided attention. Ask open ended questions, listen, and learn about what is most important to the people in your life. Discover how you can help.

Staying in touch with the important people in our life is something that we all struggle with. There are so many people and it seems as if there is so little time. Replace any feelings of guilt and regret with a healthy dose of action. Write up your touch list and start making those small but important investments in your relationships. I agree with David Maister: stop calling it non-billable time and start thinking of it as investment time. That’s what this is really about – investing in your future.