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Taking an Entrepreneurial Approach to Relationships

By Wendy M. Murphy and Kathy E. Kram

As educators of budding entrepreneurs, we spend a lot of time discussing impersonal topics, such as whether a market is growing and how to start and scale a business. But, we’d like to focus on more personal matters, specifically on the intersection between entrepreneurial thinking and relationships.

In our scholarly work, as well as related research for our new book, we’ve identified four foundational elements that govern an entrepreneurial approach to relationships and developmental networks. Below, we define each approach and then discuss how students (and educators!) may get started putting them into practice.

  1. The first is self-awareness. It comprises knowledge of your personal values, your professional and personal goals, your attitudes and preferences in work and relationships, and your talents, strengths, and weaknesses.
  2. The second is awareness of the career landscape. This includes knowledge of the immediate opportunities for growth and advancement within your organization, as well as keeping tabs on career trends beyond your organization or industry and how these may affect you.
  3. The third is relational mindset and skills. These are the combination of attitudes and relational acumen that enable you to reach out to potential developers and to deepen current relationships.
  4. The final one is selecting potential developers. This is the ability to identify developmental partners who can provide mutual learning opportunities.

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About the Authors

Wendy Murphy

Wendy Marcinkus Murphy is an Associate Professor of Management with teaching responsibilities in organizational behavior for both undergraduates and graduate programs. She also serves as the Faculty Advisor for the Mentoring Programs through the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership (CWEL). Prior to joining the faculty at Babson College, she taught at Boston College and Northern Illinois University. She earned her A.B., M.S., and Ph.D. from Boston College.

Murphy has published her research in several academic journals. Her forthcoming book with Kathy Kram, Strategic Relationships at Work: Creating Your Circle of Mentors, Sponsors, and Peers for Success in Business and Life, applies the scholarship of mentoring to a help everyone become an entrepreneurial protégé.

Kathy Kram

Kathy E. Kram is the Shipley Professor in Management at Boston University. Her primary interests are in the areas of adult development, relational learning, mentoring and developmental networks, leadership development, and change processes in organizations. In addition to her book, Mentoring at Work, she has published in a wide range of journals including Organizational Dynamics, Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, and Harvard Business Review.

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