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The Bill Munday School of Business at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, partners with top Austin business leaders, who share their views and expertise to help students reach their goals.

When Mike Wyatt works with clients who have experienced a cyber incident, they need technical expertise. But more importantly, they need confidence in the guidance Wyatt, the Cyber Risk Services Director and Solution Offering Leader for Identity Management at Deloitte, and his team provide. That confidence is based upon a relationship, says Wyatt, and that relationship is based upon trust. We talked with Wyatt, who holds an MBA from St. Edward’s University and is chair of the advisory board at the The Munday School of Business, about the art of building face-to-face relationships in the age of social networking, telecommuting and instant messaging.

How has relationship-building in a professional environment changed over time?

People used to operate mostly within their community, perhaps joining the Junior League or the Lions Club with human-to-human direct interaction. Today, so much of our interactions with others are digital and indirect. But people skills — listening effectively in a meeting instead of typing on your keyboard, understanding body language, learning how to be empathetic — are critical. They are at least as important as technical competence.

Why?

Years ago, one of Deloitte’s advisory professionals [in cyber security] built a relationship with a mid-level manager with a client firm. When there was a security breach at that company, the manager, now a senior leader at his company, called that Deloitte professional because he had a personal relationship with him. Today, that professional is a partner at the firm, and that’s partly because he’d developed a real human relationship with his client. We may do a lot of instant messaging. We’re on Twitter. But the art of building real human-to-human relationships is still very important, no matter how many social media followers you have.

That softer approach might sound counterintuitive to competitive, type-A personalities.

Building relationships with co-workers is just as important as building relationships with your clients or customers. People who get ahead at someone else’s expense have a shortsighted approach. It is far better to find ways to bring others with you on your journey than to be the solo star. Because at some point, things aren’t going to go your way, and you’ll want someone standing behind you.

How do you build those relationships?

A phrase that I like to use is, “Drill the well before you need the water.” You’ve got to find ways to help the person you want to have a relationship with — to make a deposit in that “relationship account.” It takes time, it takes focus, and it can’t be transactional. That said, it can start with something as simple as sending an email to someone that says, “Hey, I saw this interesting article, and I thought you might enjoy it.” Maybe it means volunteering in an organization and eventually getting to know influential people on the board. Then, when you do meet these people, it will be in natural not contrived situations.

Graduate programs in The Bill Munday School of Business at St. Edward’s University prepare students for professional success by helping them build highly sought-after skills. Learn more about our convenient weekend and evening programs.

Erin Peterson is a freelance writer.