Leaders: You’re in the Business of Relationships


Shift your thinking and behavior to prioritize people to power performance

When I surveyed hundreds of leaders to find out how much time they spend on workplace relationships, the results were shocking. Only a handful felt that building, nurturing, and sustaining relationships was part of their work. For the vast majority, responses ranged from ‘relationship building is an extracurricular activity’, ‘relationships have no place in the workplace’, ‘I don’t have time to build relationships’, or ‘I get paid to deliver results, not build relationships’.

Yet, herein lies the rub. Relationship building is not a distinct activity from delivering work. It is integral to getting work done. Moreover, it is how work gets done. Building relationships and getting work done are not mutually exclusive.

Karl Shaikh is a strategic advisor, board member, and bestselling author. His most recent book is Stop, Change, Grow: How to Drive Your Small Business to the Next Level. He offers his viewpoint: “Literally every interaction is relationship development. The minute you enter a meeting, you’re either starting, continuing, or closing a relationship. Say you enter a room of twenty-five people and three of those people you’ve never met before, so you’re starting a relationship with those three. There are two people in that room you’ll never talk to again—that’s closing relationships. The other twenty people to whom you’re presenting, hopefully you’re improving your relationship bank account with them by being honest, providing value, sharing information, or asking better questions.”

Tarina, a leader in the financial services industry, says this: “Whether I’m meeting with my peers, a business partner, or one of my direct reports, those interactions all involve relationship building. Everything that I do is relationship building. To me, the work is the foundation for the relationship.” To Tarina, building relationships is not a separate activity outside of work: it is her work. Leaders like Tarina are Human Leaders and chief relationship officers. Their entire responsibility consists of building, nurturing, and sustaining relationships. This focus helps people feel psychologically safe. It creates a trusting environment for people to thrive and perform at their best. It enables a culture of learning and risk-taking vital to growth, creativity, and innovation.

Alan Mulally, former president and CEO of both the Ford Motor Company and Boeing Commercial Airplanes, says this: “Working together and building relationships becomes how you operate—it’s the status quo. You do it in the way you run the business: you start with a foundation of trust to develop and nurture relationships. Relationships are absolutely key. Every interaction is an opportunity to develop the relationship. When you have a process that everyone follows, an operating model, weekly business plan review meetings, and behaviors that go along with those principles and practices, you create and nurture trusting relationships.”

As a leader, you’re in the business of relationships. To optimize effectiveness, you may need to shift your thinking and behavior to prioritize people to power performance. Here are three ways you can do so.

Prioritize the human element to drive performance.

As a Human Leader, your ability to deliver results (or lack thereof) is linked to engaging hearts and minds through transformational relationships. Human Leaders put people and their needs first before focusing on projects, profits, or tasks. Human Leaders build high-quality relationships which shape organizational culture.

Make Building Relationships Part of Your Day-to-Day

Make building relationships part of your day-to-day interactions and work processes. Show interest in each person by asking questions. Demonstrate that you respect them and their boundaries. Show that you care through your actions. Create a safe space for them to trust you and their colleagues. Develop a strategic relationship plan.

Become a Human Leader

If you haven’t already purchased my new book Be Human, Lead Human, one of the best ways you can start your Human Leader journey is by joining the information list at BeHumanLeadHuman.com.

The real work begins with you.

Learn more at www.drjennifernash.com.

You can order my new book, Be Human, Lead Human here: https://bit.ly/3QSvuZB

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