We spend a significant portion of our lives in relationship with those whom we do business with, our teammates, vendors, clients, and other stakeholders. For many of us, myself included, it’s easy for us to focus so much on the task at hand that we forget that we’re interacting with a real human being. The importance of the relationship needs to surpass the importance of the task. This is an area that I struggled with regularly as an executive in corporate America. So, here are some tips I follow to build and foster healthy business relationships.
I get to know people and understand what they are care about. I ask them questions about what they do on weekends, or what books they’re reading, or where they grew up, or their favorite travel destination. Somewhere in this conversation I’ll discover that we have something in common, like they enjoy taking walks on the beach like I do, or they’ve spent time in Southeast Asia like I have. This discovery allows us to engage as people and moves us beyond the task or project.
I try to come to each business relationship without preconceived ideas or prejudices about people and offer my respect to them purely based on their personhood. We are all people of value and worth, and I do my best to convey to people that they are important to me simply for who they are, and not just another appointment on my calendar.
While I want to be respected just for who I am, I also want to prove that I am worthy of someone’s respect. I do this by showing respect, by staying true to my word and by following through on something I said that I would do.
When I say things like, “I don’t know” or “I messed that up” or “I’m sorry” or “I need help”, I open up channels of communication that ultimately lead to a trusting relationship.
Not being content with my own journey, and myself, and becoming envious of others is corrosive to relationships, so I work on being grateful for where I currently am and remember that we’re all at different places in this life adventure.
Accentuate the Positive
In most people the good far outweighs the bad, but sometimes I get hung up on that one annoying habit of someone’s. When I fixate on that one behavior it begins to become all that I see in that person. When I catch myself doing this, I make a list of the one or two things that I really appreciate about that person, and then I call those things out to them, not only helping them to feel good about themselves but also helping me to get re-focused on the positive.
Being someone who strives for peace, it is difficult for me to let disagreement take place. I have seen some of the best solutions and innovations come from passionate conversations and spirited dialogue. I have come to appreciate having my perspectives thoughtfully challenged. We sharpen one another and make better decisions when we don’t hesitate to disagree and question one another.
I can recall several instances where I have let something someone said go unchallenged or let them believe something about a situation that was incorrect because I didn’t want to hurt their feelings or just because I didn’t want to displease them. I did a disservice to the person. Not wanting to ever do that again, I have adopted the viewpoint that if I really care about someone then I will tell him or her the truth.
I’d love to hear which one of these has helped you to develop and nurture your business relationships.