I’ve been very fortunate over this company’s 20+ years in business to have great and long-lasting relationships with many clients, colleagues, business partners, and co-workers. It’s a gift to be able to call on these individuals for advice or referrals or to be a sounding board. And it’s just as big a gift when they reach out to me for those same purposes.
There is no recipe for how to maintain business relationships over long periods of time. If there was one, I’m sure Google or Microsoft would have branded it by now and made their bajillion’s. There’s no recipe because every individual is different, every organization is different, every dynamic between two people is a little bit different. And although there is no one recipe, there are a few guiding principles that I go by that I thought I’d share with you as you continue to maintain and develop your own relationships in the working world:
- Think and act in a long-term manner. A relationship is a long-term thing. It’s not a transaction. Knowing that forces me to think and interact in a way that conveys I have the other person’s long-term best interest at heart. That might mean giving them advice and guidance that results in CSS not getting a contract in the near-term, and that is absolutely fine. It’s about what’s best for them long-term, not what’s best for CSS.
- Be appreciative of others. Other people make decisions all the time about whether or not to work with us or whether or not to respond to my messages. I appreciate the consideration and the responses. The proverbial attitude of gratitude is a real thing; appreciate others because they are unique and special.
- Treat EVERYBODY with respect. That means everybody I engage with or run into – I just try to make respect an all-the-time kind of thing. I really work hard to treat others with undivided attention, like they are the most important person in the world to me. And usually, in that moment, they are the most important person in the world to me.
- Build Trust. I conducted a team-building workshop for an Executive Team, and I had them write 3 things that others do that helps them to trust the other person, and write 3 things that others do that makes the individual not trust others. The variation in responses was amazing. “Build Trust” may be the hardest principle of all because trust-building/breaking can be defined differently by different people. To build trust, If somebody tells me something in confidence, I keep it to myself. If I say I’m going to do something by a certain time, I do it. If I can’t do it or not within the timeline, I let them know.
Now, as a disclaimer, I’m not perfect at these guiding principles. I mess up, but I’ve found that if I’ve worked to establish a relationship, the other person will give me some grace.
Keep in mind that I’m not naturally the most extroverted or gregarious person in the world. I’m not a relationship savant. So, I have to work at relationships. I have to think about it. I have to have principles and apply them over and over again.
Use these principles and those that align to your values to make 2021 the year of building relationships.