by Kathy Reiffenstein
Capital is what keeps organizations healthy and thriving, allowing them to achieve their goals. But the capital I’m referring to here is not naira, pounds or dollars. It is the kind you find in relationships instead of in bank vaults. It is called social capital.
WHAT IS SOCIAL CAPITAL?
Social capital is a bit intangible. You can’t actually touch it or see it. It can be defined as the goodwill you earn with other people [and they with you], in both your professional and personal relationships, which motivates them to consider you more favourably and want to assist you.
Social capital is what makes your associate at work recommend you for that new project; it’s what makes the person in Accounting give you an extra few hours past the deadline to get your report in; it’s what makes your boss choose you to be part of the interdepartmental task force; it’s what makes your colleague at WIMBIZ tell you about the new job opening at her company. It’s the strength of the relationships you have with these people that cause them to advocate for you.
We have opportunities every day to acquire social capital through all of our interactions and activities in the workplace, as well as outside. The challenge is to make more deposits than withdrawals to our social capital account.
WHAT’S THE VALUE OF SOCIAL CAPITAL?
Your performance, your skills, your knowledge and your accomplishments are certainly important in establishing your reputation and validating your competence. But the strength of your social capital is what stands you apart.
Social capital can:
• increase productivity because you have the relationships that facilitate getting things done more effectively and efficiently
• give you access to useful and otherwise inaccessible information, like the unwritten details about what’s important to get that promotion
• increase your professional visibility and brand you as someone who is connected
HOW TO ACQUIRE SOCIAL CAPITAL
There are three basic steps to accumulating a wealth of social capital.
Building quality relationships in your professional life is the foundation for acquiring social capital. The more people you know and who know you, the more contacts you have who can endorse you, both as a person and as a competent professional. A word of caution: the key is quality relationships. Be strategic in deciding where to invest your time to build a relationship.
As you are building a strong network of relationships, it is important to ensure that trust is a core aspect of those relationships. Earn peoples’ trust and confidence by keeping your commitments and acting with integrity in every interaction.
Practice the Law of Reciprocity
In every relationship and interaction, look for what you can give, not just for what you can get. Look for how you can help others, connect them, provide information. You will quickly gain the reputation as someone who adds value to a relationship.
Take a look at your professional relationships. How would you rate the amount of social capital you have? If it seems lacking, set yourself a goal of adding some deposits to your social capital account.