Building Digital Relationships


MAY, 2022

In our current digital environment, we’re all getting crash courses in digital relationship building. Whether your athletes are away for a break and you’re communicating with them through an app, or if you have clients who you train/coach remotely, or maybe you manage a department where working from home is becoming a regular occurrence. Whatever the case, I’m betting you’ve had to build and maintain those relationships digitally.

So when I was asked about principles of building digital relationships, you know I took notes on the conversation! I was thinking of you and the other coaches/professionals I know who would not only benefit from the conversation, but also who would have a ton of knowledge and expertise to add as well. My hopes for this blog aren’t just to convey my thoughts, but also to invite yours.

As a leader of a team or department, it’s necessary to approach relationships just as you would a game plan – be prepared, think through the execution, have a strategy. None of that is to say you should only be in it for the transaction – no, the people and relationships you have with them are EVERYTHING. The people are the reason for the meeting, not the topic at hand. Building the relationships and communicating and relating to the individuals – that’s the real meeting.

When you know each athlete or person on your team or in your department, you’re able to tailor the communication styles to their personalities and preferences. Maybe they just need a quick check in text from you, or maybe they respond better with a short Zoom call to touch base. Knowing their nuances will help show them that you care, that they’re important, and that they each matter.

That’s something a leader can never do too much of – making the ‘team’ feel like they matter. You can even set them up by asking “layup” questions where they can see you’re in it for their success. Find more opportunities to praise your teammates/team members/department members/athletes and highlight their positive traits.

And on the flip side, before you offer critique, ask your team members/athletes how they’d like to receive feedback. Especially on the digital front, it’s all too easy for tone and context to be misinterpreted. A text or email doesn’t convey sarcasm or jokes well, so be sure you know who you’re communicating with and provide feedback accordingly.

The better plan you have for handling team imperfections, the better. If you’re able to show the team you can be trusted with the little things, they’ll also find it easier to trust you with the bigger things. Digital relationships are still relationships and must be nurtured, but there are more nuances to be aware of in our digital age. I encourage you to keep the discussion going in the comments of this post by sharing your experiences, thoughts, and advice.

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