Friends Indeed: Four Ways to Leverage Work Relationships to Boost Productivity

“Your workforce is your most valuable asset. The knowledge and skills they have represent the fuel that drives the engine of business, and you can leverage that knowledge.” – Harvey Mackay, American businessman and author.

Many savvy business people will tell you that the true secret of success is cultivating profitable relationships with anyone related to your work: coworkers, colleagues, clients, prospects, even vendors. Sometimes, the least expected person is the one who saves your bacon—like that quiet but hardworking teammate, or the networking associate you met at a conference last year.

While relationships are in fact deeply important, it’s how you use them that really matters. You’re surely familiar with the principle of the lever, one of the world’s simple machines: using a fulcrum, you can maneuver a lever to manipulate an object you’d never be able to handle with your bare hands—like using the claw of a hammer to pull a nail from a board, using the wood itself as the fulcrum. We also see this principle in action on the playground with the seesaw, where children alternately use their weight and balanced lever of the teeter-totter to lift another kid’s weight. This illustration is particularly apt because the best kind of leverage helps everyone involved. That’s the kind of leverage that moves mountains and makes your work much more productive.

In many ways, all effective productivity is about leveraging relationships in one way or another, including with the following types of people:

  1. Team members/co-workers. Your work team is like your workplace family; you depend on each other for support in nearly all things. Whether you’re a team leader or team member, the quality of your relationships with your team members will determine how well you function and, to some extent, your personal and team performance. Teams enjoying close relationships and/or an excellent understanding of how their jobs interlink can leverage those relationships to not only boost their own productivity, but that of the entire team. You can leverage an exchange of favors, standard reciprocity, peer pressure, and even a person’s desire not to let down the rest of the team to maximize performance and produce the desired or greater results. A team where everyone knows where they fit, where communications are consistent and polite, where members willingly lend each other a hand and pick up slack as necessary, is a highly-tuned productivity machine.

  2. Colleagues. Though most of your work contacts will lie within your organization, wise workers maintain a network of external contacts within their field outside the office. Professional organizations, conferences and workshops, meetings, and research associations can all help you create contacts you can then leverage whenever you need help. For example, when my archaeologist friend needs crew members for fieldwork, he often contacts his colleagues at other private companies to ask if they have anyone to recommend, especially if someone was finishing a project there and needed more work. You can also leverage your networks to help you find non-human resources, even jobs for friends or yourself should worse come to worst. I’m constantly reaching out to my colleagues and fellow members at the National Speakers Association for input or vendor recommendations.

  3. Vendors. You may not immediately think of vendors when it comes to leveraging relationships, but they shouldn’t be forgotten. Especially important are vendors who specialize in supplying your specific industry. In cases where nothing else has worked, you might be able to leverage them to locate human resources, because they often keep track of the current situations in organizations they supply. Of course, they’re also the people you go to first when seeking specialty resources within their bailiwicks, or to see what other organizations like yours have done in certain situations or for other clients.

  4. Outsourcing. This may represent the least personal way of leveraging relationships, but it does allow you to reach outside the organization to find people to do delegated work. Through the medium of an outsourcing company or platform, like, you can find quality virtual workers to write, proof, edit, code, or design for you, as well as to virtually assist you, for wages you can afford. Any size organization can use outsourcing, from solopreneurs to multinational corporations; and to an increasing extent, they do. In the last few months, I’ve used Upwork to find graphic artists, public relations specialists, researchers, and survey software experts.

When it comes to productivity, your network of talented and hardworking people may prove to be your best resource. You can leverage these relationships for a performance boost. The more professional relationships you have, the better off you are, assuming they are good ones. So pay attention to and cultivate your gold stars!

About Laura Stack, your next keynote speaker:

Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, CPAE is an award-winning keynote speaker, bestselling author, and noted authority on productivity and performance. Funny, engaging, and full of real life strategies that work, Laura will change mindsets and attitudes so your people can maximize productivity, strengthen performance, and get the job done right. Her presentations at corporate events, sales kick-off meetings, and association conferences help audiences improve output, increase speed in execution, and save time in the office. Stack has authored seven books, including her newest work, Doing the Right Things Right: How the Effective Executive Spends Time (Jan. 2016). To have Laura Stack speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401, email, or CONTACT US.

Here’s what others are saying:

“Laura Stack’s session with a group of our seasoned operations managers was eye-opening. We all learned new ways to be more productive with the tools we already have. I’ve never seen each of our seasoned, experienced operations managers so engaged in a session. Many of our senior and mid-level leaders were wowed by what they learned and have already begun using the new techniques with their teams.”
—Mary Pawlowski, Learning Design, Piedmont Natural Gas

“What I enjoyed most about your presentation was that it was not only engaging but also practical in application. I’ve read everything from Covey’s system to “Getting Things Done,” and you presented time management in a way that is the easiest I’ve seen to digest and apply. Thank you for helping our system today!”
—John-Reed McDonald, SVP, Field Operations, Pridestaff

“Laura is an incredible speaker who takes practical information to improve productivity and efficiency and makes it interesting and fun! She has a great sense of humor and completely engaged our corporate and sales team. Laura motivated everyone to take steps to make their lives more productive and efficient.
—Molly Johnson, Vice President Domestic Sales, Episciences, Inc.

“Ms. Laura Stack’s program received the highest scores in the 13-year history of the Institute for Management Studies (IMS) in Cleveland! From the 83 participants, the workshop received a perfect 7.0 for “Effectiveness of the Speaker” and 6.8 for “Value of the Content.” Managers especially valued learning about task management, how to minimize interruptions, organizing with Outlook, prioritizing, effectively saying ‘no,’ how to set boundaries, and recognizing self-imposed challenges to time management.”
—Don Gorning, Chair, Institute for Management Studies Cleveland