The wealth created through authentic business relationships stimulates growth and innovation, advances commerce and benefits all. Relationships sustain more than momentum — they create and sustain relevancy. But these high-level relationships take time to cultivate. By valuing relationships, maximizing the utilization of resources, investing in your people and always looking for ways to improve strategic-resource sharing, your business sustains momentum. The key word? Relationships.
To seize the opportunities great relationships create, leaders must evolve from managing and live with an entrepreneurial spirit that values relationships and invests in people, including themselves. Then they must deploy two supporting characteristics: first, lead to leave a legacy, which holistically supports better relationships through reciprocity; and second, work with a generous purpose, which requires a commitment to collaboration, sharing and giving to grow.
Hundreds of studies of Millennials and shift populations show your employees, partners and customers want to have relationships with you, one another, your business and your brand. Lessons from the longest study on happiness — the Harvard Study of Adult Development — which tracked annually the lives of 724 men of varying economic statuses show that “Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”
I can’t think of better foundational or fiscal reasons — happiness and health, not to mention growth and innovation — for building great relationships. So why aren’t you building them? Because you’re likely still stuck in the templates of business past. You lack the ability to see that building these relationships doesn’t start with others; it starts with you, which is why you must continuously invest in yourself to sustain your relevancy. This investment will require you to find the right people who can further guide you and teach you to invest in yourself. It requires you to answer a foundational question of living with an entrepreneurial spirit: How can I nurture and develop a relationship that invests in mutual success for the future rather than what I need now?
Only after answering this question can leaders truly value relationships in the broader workplace and marketplace and encourage entrepreneurial mindsets in others. But you can’t have leadership, let alone a successful business, without strong management of and thus accountability to processes and systems. Management is important for saving time and completing the most mundane tasks, as well as for knowing what steps to take when you need to put out fires. Managing people, however, isn’t the same and can’t be done by templates, accountability to job descriptions and letting the business define the individual. Relationships must be mutually rewarding and beneficial. They value individuality, allowing that individuality to prosper, multiply and add value to others. They’re about giving not getting and creating that mutual success. They’re about sharing and taking business to the next level so you can grow.
Of course, you can’t operationalize relationships without good management. When people can’t automatically provide me with information — numbers, data, materials — they need, that’s a management problem, because I haven’t provided the tools they need to manage it or manage the people the information comes from. I can help those people deal with this management issue through my relationship with them and by coaching them to have a better relationship with others. But the real solution is to have a management process in place that demands the information so no one needs to rely on a personal relationship to ensure that things are done properly. The management process should do that and then “Leadership à la Relationship” can take things to the next level.”
That next level is what it means to grow by creating a culture of reciprocity in relationships through leading to leave a legacy and working with a generous purpose of giving. First, ask the legacy questions:
- What is the legacy that my promise has created for those around me?
- Do my employees believe that their jobs aren’t just jobs — they’re opportunities to shape their legacies?
- Do my customers, clients and partners believe that I do?
Then, you ask the generous purpose questions:
- How do I give back to my people?
- How can I share my expertise beyond my everyday work?
- Do my people, customers/clients and external partners believe that my company promotes sharing among and giving back to my people and the communities and causes they and the company embrace?
Relationships should always be reciprocal. Unfortunately, they’ve become too much about getting without giving. Real relationships can’t be about something that exists for our own benefit or getting a return on an agreement to work together in any capacity, be it a mentorship or a contractual agreement. They’re about perpetuating the momentum that each person brings to the relationship.
The same must be true in leadership: It should never be one-sided, nor should the leader always be the one generating the ideas or making the decisions. Leadership means actively listening and advancing the ideas of others (and injecting recommendations along the way to further strengthen or add value to them). If you’re the type of leader who needs all the attention, you won’t seek to cultivate wisdom in others.
Reciprocity is key; cultivating wisdom requires being in touch with what matters most to your employees and giving them the room to express their opinions and put their ideas to the test. The more you can gauge and unleash the passionate pursuits of your employees, the more effective you’ll be in challenging them to stretch their thinking and expand their endless possibilities.
Relationships in the marketplace must also go beyond the transaction — to evolve beyond the sale. Because what influences the marketplace? The individual — much more than ever before. Because we’ve shifted to individuality in the marketplace, customers are looking well beyond a brand’s products and are measuring a brand by intimacy and relationships with them as they make their selections. Customers want to share how great and authentic the story is behind what they consume. If all you have is a transactional relationship, then as soon as another brand offers a better deal, they’re gone.
Why don’t we all do the things required to create great relationships? Probably because they require hard work to do and maintain. But if you can invest in your relationships, stay authentic and not get stuck in the past, you will continue to stimulate growth and innovation, advance your business and benefit everyone involved.