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When you leave a meeting, are the other participants glad you were there?  Or do they plan to make sure you are never invited again?

A few months ago, I participated on a panel for the CFO Leadership Council on the topic of relationship capital. A colleague of mine on the panel, Karen Keefe, gave a quick and easy way to determine if you are building relationship capital – Be the person who gets invited to all the key meetings.

Relationship capital is an investment you make in building strong and empowering relationships.

And because cooperation and creativity between the numerous teams within an organization obviously benefits the whole, relationship capital is important to any company.

So, who teaches us how to be in relationship? 

Or more specifically, who teaches us how to be in relationship at work? 

I always believed that you either had a natural ability with people or you didn’t. I never considered that I could invest in changing my behavior patterns, perspectives and approaches to create more productive relationships at work. I would love to say that building relationship capital is easy, but that was not my experience. My behaviors and interactions had to change in order to forge new relationship territory. Changing behaviors is difficult.

Relationship Capital.jpgWhen I started out in business, I built “relationship capital” quite literally by accident. My early career was in pure finance, and my ‘rulekeeper’ role often put me at odds with other members of the management team. It was stressful and kept me awake many nights as I questioned my thankless role as the company police.

I wish I could say I had a master plan for building relationship capital, but honestly, I have only recently learned there was a term for what I was doing. The motivation for my style of relationship building was simple – I got bored easily and was always looking for something different to do. When I finished my day job, I would look around to improve the processes in other areas. Sometimes something would land in finance that was done incorrectly, but I knew it would have been simple to do it properly in the first place. I would reach out to the appropriate manager and suggest changes, volunteering to do the dirty work myself.

In this instance, I saved the sales manager’s team time and helped increase their sales! From my perspective, I was making my job easier by doing it right in the first place. The more I worked with sales and made their lives easier and more successful, the more they wanted me around. Also, the sales manager began to support me rather than being a roadblock to my ‘rulekeeper’ responsibilities. Colleagues began to see me in a whole new light – a fresh perspective and a consistent collaborator.

Almost by accident, building relationship capital changed the trajectory of my career. My role moved from pure finance to a broader role including operations, customer success and the management of key revenue streams. If I had minded my own business and stuck with pure finance, I never would have had the broader experiences in these areas. Nor would I have the cherished relationships I have built with customers, partners or the members of our customer success team.

Ultimately, I have found that relationship capital leads to a less stressful, less political and more cooperative work environment, and for me, career advancement.


Joyce Welsh is the CFO of BrightWork, a member of the CFOLC Boston chapter and an active blog contributor.  Over the coming months, she will share some of the tools, hints & tips and perspectives on building relationship capital. This will include posts such as working with certain challenging personality types/profiles, finding a relationship mentor, learning to add value in other parts of your organization, neuroscientific obstacles to behavior change and more. 

To read more of her recent thought pieces, visit

The CFO Leadership Council offers monthly programs featuring expert panels and interactive sessions that drives meaningful conversation and leadership development amongst our membership.   Visit to find the chapter near you.