LEADERSHIP CONVERSATIONS COLUMN: Mastering Relationship Building

Alan Berson, Author, Leadership Conversations

Alan Berson, Author, Leadership Conversations

Read Alan Berson’s 7 Top Leadership Tips of 2013!

Common Relationship Building Challenge:

There are actually four challenges: 1) No matter how many relationships you have, you always need more.  2) When a relationship is needed but does not exist, it is usually too late to form it. 3) The relationships that you don’t have will hold you back in the same way that your successful relationships have assisted you in reaching your present level of success. 4) Finally, as you rise from manager to leader to CXO, the type of relationships you engage in will change.

The Solution:

I have developed a relationship building model called the 4 T’s; it is a pipeline that must be continually filled. Solidify the relationships you currently have, but also focus on the ones you will need as you rise higher in your organization, take on greater responsibilities and increase your scope and horizons. This model is shown on page 51 of LEADERSHIP CONVERSATIONS.

  • Target Relationships:

Who do you need to know? Attend networking and industry/specialty events, and use social media to widen the net of possible relationships. Ask others who they’ve connected with to help them be successful. Think through what assistance you can offer to these potential relationship partners. Plan to reach out to at least one person per week.

  • Tentative Relationships:

You’ve met someone but still need to discover whether the ingredients are all there to pursue a relationship. Get together again and see not only what you might contribute to each other’s future success but also to discern whether you will enjoy having a relationship with them.

  • Transactional Relationships:

You have found individuals you trust and respect; you both treat each other fairly at all times as you discuss how to reach mutual or related goals. This is the primary management relationship.

  • Trusted Relationships:

These are the most personal, valuable and usually the longest lasting ones. In your conversations, no subject is taboo, the future is discussed and confidentiality is absolute. Here, leaders can bounce ideas and future thoughts off a partner who is there only to assist them in vetting and improving upon their ideas. In these leadership conversations, you can find extraordinary solutions to critical problems.

The Thought Process:

Successful relationships are about giving, not taking. From this mindset, you will attract others who are like-minded and reciprocity will result. Remember to pay it forward: Being there for another person does not mean they must reciprocate with you, but perhaps instead with others who mean something to you and your career. Build these relationships based on trust and respect and they will last for the rest of your career.

Read Berson’s previous column When You and Your Team MUST Succeed on WashingtonExec.


Alan Berson is an author, keynote speaker, executive coach, Learning Director at Wharton Executive Education and the CEO of Leadership Conversation LLC based in Potomac, MD. His recent book, LEADERSHIP CONVERSATIONS: Challenging High-Potential Managers to Become Great Leaders, was released by Jossey-Bass in March of this year and was named as one of the top 10 management/leadership books by Amazon.com. An extensive review can be found at Knowledge@Wharton.


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