A Little Bit of Honey

Building and maintaining professional relationships is incredibly important. This is as true for Ombuds as any other professional.

This week is the International Ombuds Association (IOA) Annual Conference. As we engage with our colleagues we reflect on the benefits of these relationships and why they are so important. We want to share those reflections with you!

Why is building and maintaining relationships important? 

  • Building trust and credibility within our organizations makes us more effective, more efficient, and more influential.
  • Fostering relationships among a diverse network outside our organizations helps us maintain perspective and raise awareness of our profession. 
  • Maintaining a strong affiliation among professional communities provides support when we find ourselves facing a challenging situation, needing a place to be vulnerable and honest about struggles, and seeking empathy and enthusiasm from someone who understands and appreciates our role. 

During the past year we adapted. We didn’t have a choice. We learned how to build and maintain relationships in a virtual world. The 16th annual IOA Conference is no different. Thanks to the time, effort, and talents of many ombuds leaders, we found a way – got creative. On day one of the conference we enjoyed Experience on Display (an online pop-up art gallery), clever and fun break out rooms, virtual meetings with others, and finally, a virtual social hour with a cocktail/mocktail offering called, “The Ombuzz!” Below is what we gleaned about the drink and about building and maintaining professional relationships. We hope you will benefit from both!

The Ombuzz:

(Ombuds understand, better than most, the proverb, “you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”, making this particular concoction, oh so fitting.)

  • Gin (for mocktails, use chilled green tea)
  • Lemons (2 for juicing)
  • Rosemary Honey Syrup (Combine 2 parts honey and 1 part water, and 2 sprigs of rosemary per 1 cup honey; simmer, stirring frequently until honey dissolves. Let cool before using)

Chad, co-founder of “Please Bring Chips” warned, too much ice will dilute a cocktail/mocktail. Similarly, too much isolation will dilute a relationship. While sipping “The Ombuzz,” our ombuds colleagues reflected and shared the importance of ombuds relationships and what they are doing to concentrate (the opposite of dilute) relationships during these unprecedented times. Let’s take a look at what they had to say…

  • “It is important to connect to colleagues because of the work we do. We are in support of others and being called upon to give and support. For me, this is an opportunity to connect and receive from colleagues and friends who do this work and so – it’s an opportunity to connect with people in an authentic and genuine way.” ~ D. A. Graham
  • “A group of us meet weekly by Zoom. We all have had such hard weeks with COVID and everything else. We are dealing with a lot. As ombuds, we end up absorbing it a lot of times. It is nice to see friendly faces in our weekly meeting. We have our cone of silence where we can bring up issues and concerns to talk through with colleagues. And sometimes we also just laugh through the whole meeting. We frequently laugh. That helps.” ~ Sarah Klaper
  • “I am brand new – struggling to get to know anyone beyond my direct supervisor. Nice to hear new thoughts and get to know folks and get their points of view and hear their stories so I can learn a bit faster.” ~ Paul Foisy
  • “Connection is important because it is a basic human need we all have. Given the need to stay impartial in our respective organizations we might often get disconnected/lonely and so having a community of Ombuds helps us stay connected.” ~ Reese Ramos
  • “I’m a solo Ombuds and so connecting is vital to my well-being and my practice. I asked for a mentor in my first year and it was a GREAT way to feel connected, and now I’m a mentor to keep that going. I also follow the Ombuzz and enjoy the articles. I heard about it a few years back and started sending monthly messages to my campus in my first year as an Ombuds.” ~ Kristine Paranica
  • “My Ombuddies have become some of my best friends. They share a language and value set that makes me feel understood and seen. I’m so lucky to have found my people through my work, even if we are colleagues spread out around the world.” ~ Amanda Dean

We encourage you to think about your professional network. How is it serving and supporting you? How are you serving and supporting others? If you seek a more robust professional network, here are some quick tips:

  • Engage on a professional social media site like LinkedIn. Follow people you want to learn more about or learn from. Commenting on their posts can lead to more meaningful interaction.
  • Join a professional association in your field. Get involved. Volunteer. This is a fast way to build professional connections.
  • Conduct informational interviews. People love to talk about themselves and will regularly agree to meet. It can lead to connections as well as ongoing mentoring and coaching. 
  • Be vulnerable and allow space for others to share mistakes and concerns. This is where growth and development take place!

We would like to end this post with a ‘shout out’ to all of our Ombuddies who have supported us, guided us, and laughed with us through the years and to those Ombuddies we haven’t met yet! Thank you! 


Elizabeth Hill, Associate Director,
University of Colorado Boulder Ombuds Office


Teresa Ralicki, Ombuds,
University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus Ombuds Office

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