Why are some of your relationships more productive than others? Why did you choose to invest in some more than others? Was it just transactional in the short-term outcome you saw for yourself, or did you envision a longer-term impact on your personal and professional growth? These are the questions I’ve researched, asked countless senior executives, spoken and written about extensively in the past decade. Beyond your discretionary personal relationships, and your functional relationships you put up with because you have to (think of some clients or colleagues), strategic relationships elevate your thinking and perspective to reach new and often previously unimaginable heights. So, how do you get there? There are a number of components we must keep in mind when it comes building and nurturing our strategic relationships. The following seven areas will help you build these key relationships to elevate your perspective and future horizon:
1. Relationships are assets. Relationships are an organization’s biggest off-balance sheet assets, regardless of the size, industry, or structure. As such, they can be created, managed, nurtured, measured, and even discontinued, intentionally and consciously.
2. Relationships are between individuals not logos. Business cannot exist in the absence of relationships between people who develop a mutual interest based on mutual trust and predicated by mutual value perceived. The stronger the value-exchange, the more potential for success in the business outcome. It’s not whom you know that counts; rather, it’s. The more they authentically care – whether the “they” are associates, prospects, customers, or vendors – the greater the potential for success.
3. The DNA of the business is the intracompany relationships. When the purpose of a relationship changes, the expectations and “rules” that apply also change. In that sense, the purpose defines the nature of the relationship, which survives until the purpose or desired outcome is met. Then that particular relationship ends, or transforms into a new one if a new purpose is agreed on. Therefore, desired outcome is the organizing factor in business relationships. Without it, there is no meaning to the relationships.
4. The desired outcome defines the business. All relationships can be evaluated with regard to the desired outcome, which may be as simple as casual friendship or as complex as the organization of a federal institution. The success of a business relationship always refers back to the desired outcome, which might change over time, requiring ongoing evaluation and course correction.
5. Servant leadership fuels successful relationships. Any business is run by a select few, which we refer to as the “inner circle” of the organization’s leadership. The inner circle, committed to reaching the desired outcome, is the key to the desired relationship success. Without an effective core group, the business will fail. The potential for success of any business can accurately be predicted on the basis of the cohesion in the relationships of its core group.
6. Culture is vision delivered. A primary contribution to the structure of cohesiveness is that businesses are not the brick-and-mortar buildings that house them, but rather the relationships that constitute the social network of the individuals making up the organization. Accordingly, the business is the dynamic interaction between and among its members as they focus on the desired outcome. All the rest, including the brick-and-mortar physical space, the paperwork files, and the related inventory (if there is such), are merely the physical manifestation of the business, not its essence.
7. We have met the business, and it is “we,” versus “them.” It then follows that the business exists whenever and wherever two or more people communicate to achieve the desired outcome, including virtual connections. A “virtual” business may have no brick-and-mortar home yet be highly successful. But it must have a relationship network of individuals focusing on a desired outcome, within and external to the organization. When any organization defines itself as “us” and “them,” versus the collective “we,” it’s not firing on all cylinders.
How effectively are you building your strategic relationships? How impact-fully are these ideas permeating your organization? Many get the importance of business relationships. Few really understand their significance. Similarly, many are competent in relationship creation; they often struggle with bridging the gap to relationship capitalization.
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