8 Experts Provide Tips to Build, Manage & Expand Executive Relationships

8 Experts Provide Tips to Build, Manage & Expand Executive Relationships

We’ve reached out to a key group of professionals who are experts at building and maintaining strong networks and relationships to help professionals understand, manage, build and expand senior executive relationships in the continued COVID reality.

Check out their insights, thoughts, recommendations and forecasts for the year ahead to help manage senior executive level relationships.

Ron Smith, Director – Keynote Search

Sincerity and character

Gatherings and physical distancing requirements have significantly shifted contact management. The heightened use and broader reach of ZOOM or video meetings is here to stay. However, relationship management fundamentals are steadfast. Sincerity and character are what develop and nurture relationships, so continue to really listen, provide value, make and facilitate connections. Your efforts will be reciprocated and you will be known as a “go-to-person”.

Dr. Jacline Nyman, Vice-President, External Relations – University of Ottawa

Authentic value-based leadership

I believe in authentic, values-based leadership. We are in the midst of a global pandemic. As we each struggle through, and eventually emerge from our state of isolation, cycling lock-downs and stay-at-home orders, we will need to have compassion and motivation to bring each other along to a new normal.

We cannot underestimate the emotional toll this has taken on most of us, albeit in unique ways. Many people have become vulnerable – whether it be from experiencing job loss, meaningful work, exhaustion, family or friends dying from COVID, not being able to grieve with loved ones, or for many, the experience of profound loneliness.

This may present us with a once in a lifetime opportunity for more humility and humanity – a leadership opportunity where we emerge with a greater capacity to trust, listen and innovate around what it means to truly connect.

In the past, big events may have been the fuel of stakeholder engagement, but how authentic were these connections? Now, we may have smaller, more meaningful gatherings for some time. Authenticity and compassion will be key to re-building interpersonal relationships, our cultural fabric, businesses, and our economy. Because if we can’t share this common experience, and express how it has reshaped our lives, and what we now need to succeed, we will miss a huge opportunity to learn – to work together to thrive once more. More than ever, enhanced trust, authenticity and kindness will be core elements of building successful relationships.

Susan St. Amand, CFP, CLU, CH.F.C., TEP, FEA. ICD.D, Founder and President The Sirius Group Inc. and Sirius Financial Services

Peer groups

One way to stay connected is through peer group sessions facilitated through our memberships in organizations like the Family Enterprise Exchange, the Family Business Network, The Ottawa Board of Trade, the Society for Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP), the Institute of Corporate Directors (ICD) and our own professional study groups. Another is by attending the virtual breakfasts or events for our local charities and keeping engaged with what is happening in our communities. We are privileged to have access to so many tools – I stay focused on what we do have, the technology that didn’t exist 10 years ago. The ability to stay connected and to remain engaged in our community.

I love to read and to attend interesting discussions. When I find books (like BE 2.0 by Jim Collins) or talks of interest (Munk Dialogues, Global Risk Institute), articles and learning opportunities, that I think are of interest to others, I selectively share them, providing a link through a short email or text. Sending short one-line messages along with a link or notice of an interesting event takes only a few minutes, but people appreciate it.

It is hard to get through all the noise, there are so many resources available online – if you can curate some special interest pieces and deliver them to your clients, friends, peers, colleagues, key business relationships etc., you not only save them some precious time, you show them you care and that you listen.

Raymond Rashed, Director, Technology & Innovation Banking, Regional Lead for Ontario North and East – RBC


Today, almost 1 year later, we continue to support and advise our clients demonstrated with care and empathy through virtual video calls, advice events and proactive calling. As leaders we also had to pivot how we manage and support our teams. The pandemic has caused a toll on mental health with everyone in one way or another making them feel isolated, lonely and caused increase stress and anxiety. More days are allotted to absenteeism due to mental health than to other illness or injuries. My goal as a leader is to let my team know I’m there for them any time of day by virtual video or call and listen and support them in any way I can. To recognize that every employee is affected differently, whether you have kids who are learning virtually from home, school closures, daycare closures, home alone, etc. Every situation deserves different attention and providing your employees with a flexible schedule to work around their family’s needs is one example of being there for your employees. In order to take care of our clients we also need to take care of our employees and ourselves.

Eli Fathi, CEO – MindBridge Ai

Purpose beyond profit

The two biggest changes I predict will be the speed of change to digital environments and a shift in purpose for business leadership, most importantly the embrace of purpose beyond profit. As Julie Sweet, CEO of Accenture, announced in a series of articles in Forbes 2020 is a year to “Let There Be Change”- originally meant to be a rallying point for a decade long plan to bring their company digital, it’s now every company’s mantra. And if it isn’t, it should be.

Business leaders need to embrace the value of technology – for individuals, businesses, and governments – to make monumental changes. The pandemic has re-taught us the value of human connection and reaffirmed our ability to adapt and persevere in the most trying times. As individuals and businesses continue to navigate COVID, business leaders must remember to empathize, inspire and motivate their employees, and remember the shared experience we are all experiencing together.

Businesses cannot exist without the individuals who drive them; if leaders do not create strategies to fix growing mental health concerns, help the vulnerable members of their communities, and provide employees with a purpose to align with, then their business will not survive in a post-COVID world.

Peggy Austen, M.A. ,Director, Corporate Partnerships, Pallium Canada

Sense of community

When the pandemic hit, I was a few short months into a brand-new role at Pallium Canada – a role that is predicated on building meaningful relationships with external partners. Undeniably, panic and uncertainty set in when all face-to-face meetings and events were cancelled. I drew on lessons learned from my Royal Roads University graduate program on ways to create an authentic sense of community in a virtual environment. For 2 years, as home-based learners, we balanced careers, families, and logistics, openly sharing life challenges, and embracing the now familiar mantra of ‘we are all in this together’. How do you create a sense of professional community when community is now your home? I would suggest that prior to COVID, we related primarily to each other based on our organizations or our roles. Today, we are building relationships with an unprecedented level of humanness given the reality of our virtual interactions. We are in each other’s homes. We see first-hand the casual outfits, the pets, the children interrupting calls and people navigating spaces that were never meant for work. To be sure, there is a genuine fatigue to the myriad of digital communication platforms that have taken over our lives. That being said, are we acknowledging and utilizing these shared human experiences in the engagement of new relationships or to deepen existing ones? The pandemic demonstrates that it is more important than ever to generate authentic and compassionate business relationships. This is especially true for those who are struggling as caregivers or are impacted by the implicit grief that comes with the loss of routines and social connections to each other. Indeed, we are all in this together. If the experience of COVID has taught us anything, it is that maintaining humanness into our work interactions must continue far beyond the pandemic.

Bruce Raganold, Director of Business Development – Welch LLP

Look for opportunities

We are all living in this same pandemic, and relationships coming out of it will not necessarily be the same as when we went in. In another two months, we’ll have gone an entire year through this. Go out of your way to look for opportunities to help and connect your clients, prospects and influencers. This is not easy during COVID of course, but it’s entirely possible. And if others aren’t being as active, it can give you a leg up.

Just interacting on social media does not necessarily mean you’re developing a relationship. You know the people that are important to you, so show them they are. Call people. Send personal emails. Have thoughtful conversations. Host zoom roundtables. Even though it’s not always the same as meeting in person, it’s all we’ve got, and if you don’t stay active you’ll be missing opportunities to connect and be helpful to your network.

Those who show they care, and try to help, during these times will have solidified their relationships, and they’ll be top of mind for business opportunities (and/or an invite for a pint!) when things get back to normal.

Solange Tuyishime, President & CEO – Elevate International

Social responsibility

I am a strong believer that through every challenge lies opportunities: to grow, create, connect and elevate.

Challenging circumstances are often the most honest moments in our society, because they remind us that we are all human beings with the same basic needs: health, safety and belonging. So as we navigate through these trying times it becomes even more important to enhance our social responsibility because many in our communities will need our support to survive and rebuild.

At Elevate international it has become more evident that women’s leadership and economic power is more important than ever. To survive as an organization, we have used this time as an opportunity to challenge ourselves and re-imagine how we can serve better and create an even greater impact beyond the COVID-19 era. We felt it was important to create a positive community for women and girls. We also took time to build stronger relationships with our partners and engage our champions. Through this process, we realized that during tough times leaders want to contribute, because many have walked paths of trials and tribulations in their careers and they genuinely want to share knowledge and help where possible.

Today as leaders, our priority is to provide hope, maintain purpose and passion; and there is no better time than now to enhance our social responsibilities and align our work with philanthropic missions that are making the world better.