First, would YOU want to have a relationship with yourself?
To whom did you say “Thank You!” in the last 30 days? How many of these were people who you did not know yet truly have an impact on your life? When was the last time one of these folks thanked you genuinely for your kindness toward them because of your sincerity?
Why do I ask these questions? Because we tend to maximize our own contribution to our success and minimize the contributions of others. We also tend not to recognize the efforts of those we feel are contributing on a lower level than we are as their contribution is felt to be ‘less valuable’. Yet, none of us can succeed by our efforts alone – we are part of both an interlocking ecosystem and a cascade of cultures – home, work, spiritual, and others.
Remember, without the busboy, your waiter and the restaurant would fail; without a locker room attendant, the health club would be unwelcoming; without the bus driver, our roads would be overcrowded. Be the person who is there for others if you want them to be there for you!
Common Relationship Building Challenge:
There are actually four challenges:
- No matter how many relationships you have, you always need more.
- When a relationship is needed but does not exist, it is usually too late to form it.
- 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.
- Finally, as you rise from manager to leader to CXO, the type of relationships you engage in will increase in power and importance.
My relationship building model is called the 4 T’s and 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: Challenging High Potential Managers to Become Great Leaders.
- 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 to introduce you to the people with whom you have interests in common. Think through what assistance you will offer to these target relationship partners. Reach out to at least one each 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. Bring positive, not negative energy into your life.
- 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. You will be lucky to have even three to five of these relationships at any time.
- 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.
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.