How many hours a week do you spend at work with your colleagues? 40? 50? 60? How many hours a week do you spend with family and friends? My guess is that, like many of the leaders I work with, you spend more time with your co-workers than you do at home.\nIt\u2019s no wonder that the concept of a \u2018work-wife\u2019 (or husband) has entered the vernacular, work-wife apparently dates back to the 1930\u2019s! The term describes a platonic relationship with a colleague, and could easily apply to what I describe as an ally relationship in my book Cultivate: the Power of Winning Relationships.\nIf relationships matter, they matter even more at work. Your success depends on the quality of your professional relationships. Those people without whom your success would be compromised; the professional connections that you reach out to when you have a question or are unsure of what action to take; winning relationships that empower you to achieve outstanding results together; the \u201cI-couldn\u2019t-get-my-job-done-without-you\u201d relationships. It is also about those difficult and challenging relationships that drain your energy, that create roadblocks and impact your ability to deliver the goals and results expected of you, the \u201cI-get-my-job-done-in-spite-of-you\u201d relationships.\nHaving a work-spouse \u2013 or, as I prefer to call it, an Ally relationship at work \u2013 has been shown in numerous studies to make you a better leader, more engaging to customers, deliver stronger results and produce higher quality work. An article in Harvard Business Review reported that strong social bonds don\u2019t just predict overall happiness, but also have a significant effect on a person\u2019s long-term career achievement, occupational success, and, ultimately, income.\nImproving the quality of our professional relationships at work is not rocket science, but it may as well be. We\u2019re all so busy keeping our heads down and eyes on the prize that we can forget to look up and connect with those around us. Whether you have a work-spouse or are looking to cultivate career allies, these five Do\u2019s \u2013 and, perhaps more importantly, Don\u2019t\u2019s \u2013 can help you cultivate winning relationships:\nDO: Identify who you need to connect with. You don\u2019t have enough time to develop Ally relationships with everyone. Take a moment to write down three critical goals you must achieve in the next few months. Next to each goal, write down the names of your coworkers who could help or hinder your ability to achieve those results. These are the critical relationships that require care and attention, and the people with whom you need to proactively invest time with to develop an Ally relationship. Remember: your success depends on this person (and may be at risk if you don\u2019t)!\nDON\u2019T: Focus only on what you can get. If you only contact your critical stakeholder when you need something, you\u2019ll very quickly find that your \u2018work-spouse\u2019 might be washing their hair and unavailable! An Ally relationship is about give and take. Be proactive in offering your expertise, and ensure that reciprocity is part of your relationship.\nDO: Talk to strangers. OK, I don\u2019t mean stranger-strangers, but I do mean the colleagues at work that you don\u2019t know. It seems to me that the \u201cStranger Danger\u201d talk we are given as children weighs far too heavily on us as adults. You go down to the cafeteria for your lunch, walk out with your tray of food, look around the room, and don\u2019t recognize anyone\u2026 and so you go back to your office and eat alone. And yet, none of us are in Junior High. It\u2019s OK to go and sit with the cool kids \u2013 in fact, you are one of the cool kids, because you all work and play for the same team! Sit down, introduce yourself, and find out how you can help each other to be more successful.\nDON\u2019T: Stick with the usual suspects. Many leaders put a lot of energy in cultivating relationships with those with the right title and seniority (the vertical relationships), but spend less care and attention on horizontal relationships across their business. If you\u2019re focused only on the \u2018right\u2019 connections, your style will come across as inauthentic. I\u2019ve worked with many leaders whose relationships have been skewed in one direction (usually up) and do not include representation from across the organization.\nDO: Say thank you! When was the last time you received thanks for a job well done? Studies show that gratitude, when genuinely expressed, has a direct and positive impact on relationships. It\u2019s not enough to wait for others to recognize your contributions and thank you, though. It starts with you. When was the last time you said \u201cthank you\u201d to someone on your team, or in another department? Saying \u201cthank you\u201d is one of the key conversational strategies within Cultivate that nurtures new relationships and improves existing ones.\nDON\u2019T: Focus on only one relationship. It\u2019s easy to focus on your work-spouse or Ally at the exclusion of your other professional relationships. After all, they \u2018get\u2019 you; you have fun together, and they challenge and encourage you to be the best you can. However, by limiting your attention on one person, you may run the risk of the relationship being misinterpreted and having yourself and your \u2018work-spouse\u2019 become the focus of gossip and speculation. It\u2019s far better to have more than one Ally and cultivate a \u2018work-family.\u2019\nDO: Personalize the relationship. Nurturing Ally relationships isn\u2019t easily done by email or even phone. Relationships by their nature are personal. Face time is the most effective way to strengthen your professional connections. Whether you go for lunch, walk around the office campus, or simply stop by a colleague\u2019s desk to check in, the personal touch makes all the difference. It\u2019s all too easy to let the hectic nature of Monday through Friday flash past and forget to make time to invest in your professional relationships. Put it in your calendar if necessary \u2013 you\u2019ll be glad you did.\nDON\u2019T: Multi-task and forget to be present. The most common frustration I hear about relationship-building involves multitasking. We\u2019re all guilty of it: checking email while we\u2019re on the phone, not actively listening during a conversation, looking through our Facebook or LinkedIn feeds while we\u2019re grabbing a coffee with a colleague. These all send the clear message \u201cYou are not important.\u201d If you want to avoid any possibility of sending this message, switch off the computer screen, turn away from the distractions, or if necessary, signal the fact that you are in the middle of something and schedule time when you can focus. Email can wait, people can\u2019t.\nDO: Reflect and learn.Weekly reflection is a powerful tool. Use the weekend to contemplate the larger forces that are shaping your industry, your organization, your job and yes, your relationships. Without the distractions of Monday to Friday busy work, you should be able to see things in a new light. Use this insight to alter your approach to the coming week, and improve the efficiency and efficacy of your work.\nDON\u2019T: Cross the line. The key to a successful and professional Ally relationship is that it is platonic and professional. In Cultivate, I share four conversational strategies for clarifying \u2018the rules of engagement,\u2019 as I\u2019ve found that most relationships flounder when expectations aren\u2019t clearly articulated. If you \u2018cross a line\u2019 or feel that someone else has crossed a line with you, you need to have the courage to discuss it, and to get the relationship back on track before you run the risk of it derailing irreparably.\nBringing it all together\nIt\u2019s not what you do that is the sole driver of your career success -- it\u2019s how you do it, and perhaps most importantly of all, who you do it with.\nA work-spouse is a conditional relationship; it rarely continues when circumstances change, a move to a new office, when one person leaves the organization.\nAn Ally relationship, on the other hand, is unconditional. Through good times and bad, your Ally will have your back. These relationships will stand the test of time even if one of you moves to a new role or company.\nWhether you are the CEO of a major organization, starting out in your career, a people manager or a technical leader, cultivating winning relationships is a game changer.\nRemember: Business is personal and relationships do matter.