I have spent more than decade coaching, consulting, and thinking about people who effectively build business relationships inside and outside their organization. My mind keeps coming back to: What are these "best of breed" people doing differently? What is uniquely intentional and meaningful about the way they conduct relationships?
I call these attributes "Relationship Impact Moments" because I believe that each one of us encounters moments throughout the day that present opportunities to think about, apply, and improve our performance on each of these ten:
1. Empathy. Walk in others' shoes. You need relationships internally, with colleagues, supervisors and direct reports, and externally, with vendors, clients, collaborators, and other stakeholders. Each walks a different walk than yours. Can you attune yourself to take the perspectives of others? If you've never worked in or around ad agencies, you'll have a difficult time effectively positioning a solution that's believable for them. If you've never worked in a small business, you have not idea what entrepreneurs go through and how to effectively engage them. Relationships work very similarly; if you don't look at a situation, an opportunity, a challenge from the other side's perspective, you can't possibly add value or become an asset to them.
2. Engagement. Show up. Be present, when you are with someone you're nurturing as a strategic relationship. Think about the outcome--How can you improve this relationship's outcome? I have a simple litmus test for relationship quality: Are your relationships better off because of you? If you are not delivering value that makes others better off for the time spent with you, you're missing the mark. You may be doing a lot of relationship creation activities--the coffees, lunches, office visits--but you're doing zero to connect relationship creation to relationship capitalization. Delivering value begins with engagement. While you're having that coffee or office visit, engage your focus on how to make this individual better off because of you. Be in that moment.
3. Adaptability. Tailor it. Stop doing one size fits all. The best way to increase your adaptability is to become a "power listener." Most people can articulate what they want, but not what they need. The difference is you consultative approach. Do your utmost to help people delineate what they need--then do your utmost to deliver it. The more adaptable you capabilities, the more your strategic relationships benefit from their connection with you. What could you do, to deliver greater value to your strategic relationships through customizing your product or service for their process of buying it?
4. Perspective. Change it. We all see the world through our own lens--your relationships give you opportunities to influence theirs, if you're attuned and can seize the moment. When you change someone's lens, you help him or her see value differently. Example: Last year Westin Hotels partnered with New Balance shoes to lend guests shoes and running wear--and maps of running routes. Some hotels even have running concierges who lead runs for guests. That's changing the hotel guests' lens--helping them see the hotel as lifestyle support, not just room for the night. (Think about it--I'm definitely better off for the relationship; now that I don't have to pack my running gear. They've leveraged a Relationship Impact Moment to build my customer satisfaction.) How can you help your relationships see the value you deliver as new, more, or better?
5. Conviction. Bring a point of view. What do you stand for? What do you believe in? How did you come to that position? Extra points if you bring a point of view that is unconventional or contrarian--a view they haven't yet considered, a perspective that is interesting. Lead your relationships to think. The more senior the individual you are nurturing a relationship with, the more important conviction becomes. Executives so frequently hire to fit a profile of a leader that is--sadly--similar to themselves. That seriously reduces the population of people around who will challenge their ideas. You bring value that makes relationships better off because of you when you bring conviction that isn't a mirror of their own views.
6. Collaboration. Make it stronger, together. Collaboration for collaboration's sake is a waste of time. Collaboration that brings both internal and external perspectives to the table indisputably makes that end product more valuable. When designing collaborations I look to bring together the people who bring intelligence, ideas, who can think differently, who are willing to challenge the status quo. I want brains in that room that can make it stronger--not stomachs showing up for the free lunch. Collaborate when collaboration makes the outcome stronger.
7. Selflessness. Reduce your self-interest. The more you shift your focus from your own interests to others', the more the other side is going to be willing to open up to you. Again, it's that consultative approach. When your strategic relationships believe that you are after what's best for them--even if it means directing them to another resource --the more trust they will invest in your relationship. They will become willing to share the root causes of issues and challenges. That's a significant move toward relationship capitalization. To get there, master selflessness.
8. Accountability. Own it. The executives I respect the most are those with the least interest in finger pointing. They care about outcomes. Their position is "I don't care who or why or how it happened, I just want it resolved." You earn respect when you are willing to own outcomes, even if you didn't have anything to do with the situation that required those outcomes. Whether it's recovering from a service bobble or driving forward a new initiative, get involved and get it done. Make things happen. Don't just watch them happen!
9. Candor. Say what others won't. Too many people tell us what we want to hear, not what we need to hear. If you're consulting with a COO and you see his scope of business is a mess--lack of leadership, flawed strategy, misguided vision, or abusive stewardship --say so. People are paying you to for your candor. It's risky, but that's exactly why it has value. If you feel fear, name it! That is exactly what your strategic relationships are looking for. Be respectful and base your candor on the true facts of a situation--do your due diligence, definitely. Then give your candor. Honor goes to those who are honest.
10. Results. Up their game. Those "best of breed" people who effectively build relationships inside and outside their organization I referred to earlier are committed to raising the bar each and every time. Every initiative they touch is stronger because they're involved, if not leading it. Every person they hire, coach or mentor becomes an "A-player." They themselves are life-long learners because they realize when you succeed you tend to become complacent. Nothing nurtures a strategic relationship more impactfully than when you deliver on the commitments you make and they not just hear, but feel that they're better off because of you!
Ten attributes: Empathy, engagement, adaptability, perspective, conviction, collaboration, selflessness, accountability, candor, results. A hundred moments throughout the day.
For the next 24 hours, give it a try. Bookmark this article. Observe how many opportunities occur throughout the day to work on your mastery of Relationship Impact Moments. Take these opportunities apply one or more of the ten traits to nurture a strategic relationships.
If you accept this challenge, I promise you'll find yourself moving to a place where they can't get to where they're trying to go, can't achieve what they're after, without you. That's when you really tap the enduring power of relationships.
1. Be always mindful of the central question: How are your relationships better off because of you?
2. Some Relationship Moments require you to work on yourself, while others ask you to put yourself aside for a moment and focus on another person. (Can you tell which are which? If not, call me.)
3. Never lose sight of opportunities to apply these attributes to nurture your relationships. When you do, you bring that which is not just incrementally better, but exponentially better.
To learn more about David Nour and The Nour Group visit here