Carla Harris  Managing Director & Senior Client Advisor at Morgan Stanley. Author of Expect to Win.

Carla Harris
Managing Director & Senior Client Advisor at Morgan Stanley. Author of Expect to Win.


Women get so caught up in the ‘performance currency. We over-invest in this because, in many ways, it is safe. It is black and white. It is much grey-er to take some time out and shoot the breeze with someone because the return on that effort is not clear, and yet this shooting the breeze is very valuable.

Relationship currency colors people’s perception of you and it colors people’s perception of your work. But that is not what you hear when you are coming out of college or graduate school. Every company says that if you do really good work, if you keep your head down then you will go right to the top. But nobody ever takes the time to explain the nuances of how that work gets viewed or graded.

I think women tend to focus on the deliverables and just the deliverables because they are tangible. But in many of these dynamic and intense environments - if you are a woman or if you are a person of color - there are not a lot of people who look like you.

It is very easy to put your head down and focus on the work because everyone says the work is what matters. But for other people (because there are more people who look like them) it is easier for them to chit chat and have informal conversations. And this ends up being very important when people review your work and consider your performance.

Building relationships at work, really does not require that much time. With very light touches people can get to know you. You can walk to Starbucks together, or go for lunch. I think building those relationships is really about frequency and light touches.

How much time should you spend on this? Well, always execute on the deliverables, but I believe you can do both because at some point you are going to go and get a cup of coffee. If it has been a week and you have not had a light touch with someone where it was not directly assignment related, then that should be a red flag to you. Take a half hour out of your day go out and be intentional about making those connections.