By Alan Berson
Quick, without looking at your contacts, list ten people, internal and external to your organization, who you can count on – without fail – to help you get your business accomplished. Now, write the names of three others whom you trust absolutely and with whom you regularly have conversations on both a strategic and personal level to alleviate the ‘loneliness-at-the-top’ syndrome. Finally, when did you have your last leadership conversation with each of them?
If you found these lists easy to compile, call the ones today whom you have not spoken with in the past month and thank them for their help; remember to ask how you might assist them. Speak with each one at least monthly going forward.
If you have trouble creating either of these lists, or relationships seem to be less of a factor in your success; read on to get back on track to creating the ones that are critical to your success.
There are four basic relationship levels shown in the figure below:
For CEOs, CXOs and executive leaders – your primary goal is to build and strengthen Trusted Relationships. These are the most personal, valuable, and usually longest-lasting. They are a safe haven that welcomes conversations on virtually any subject – each other’s objectives and interests being the primary focus. The conversations usually involve big picture topics and mentoring. The first person you call when you uncover a critical issue or want to blue-sky a fledgling idea is one with whom you have a trusted relationship.
For Managers – your primary goal is to build Transactional Relationships. These are less personal and are used to accomplish specific business objectives. They are defined by what each party can do for the other to reach near-term objectives, seldom extending into career or personal areas. Ongoing relationships with customers, peers and suppliers often lie in this category.
Each one of you should also focus on maintaining the pipeline for trusted and transactional relationships by also focusing on the following two relationship levels:
Think of Tentative Relationships as pre-relationships – you must learn more about each other before trusting them with an important transaction. If you received a phone message or email and set it aside with an intention to respond later, you have a tentative relationship. Neither of you know the other well enough to make your conversations an instant priority. You may have spoken briefly at a conference, heard their name from a transactional partner, or they may be calling because of your reputation in the industry.
To achieve your goals, there are people with whom you should have a relationship but do not – those are Target Relationships. You do not know them, but you do know that:
- You will benefit from what they offer, and
- They will benefit from knowing you.
How can you identify and reach out to them? Ask peers and your boss for suggestions; comb social media like LinkedIn and Facebook. Attend industry events and join associations. Construct a target relationship pipeline by writing their names down and contacting at least one of them every week. Be creative and aggressive in adding names to the list. That list is your path to new transactional and trusted relationships.
As you rise in your organization, find transactional relationships that are relevant to your new responsibilities. Consider transitioning some of them to the person who holds your old job then mentor this person on how to build and maintain these relationships. With every promotion, focus more on forming the trusted relationships.
Your trusted and transactional relationships define your success; they are the resource that keeps you strategic, focused and meeting goals.
Read Berson’s previous column, Have You Had Your Leadership Conversation Today? here on WashingtonExec.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alan Berson, the author of this column is an author, leadership and change management professor, and an executive coach. Feel free to go to www.pulsepointcoaching.com for more information or email him at email@example.com. He is located in Potomac, Maryland. Excerpts above are from his upcoming book: “LEADERSHIP CONVERSATIONS; Challenging High-Performing Managers to Become Great Leaders” by Alan S. Berson and Richard G. Stieglitz to be published by Jossey-Bass in March, 2013.