Why relationship building is strategic to your bizlife

Earlier this week, I gave a talk at a tech company titled “Harnessing The Power Of Great Relationships.” The event was Leadership Day for a business unit of a major company.  This unit works away from the core of the company’s business, located over an hour from HQ.  As a non-core business, resources are scarce, from head count to capital.  As a tech company, the skill set outside of line functions is engineering oriented.  X’s and O’s.  

My talk offered a new area of skill: Relationship management.  If this unit honed its ability to cultivate positive relationships internally and with partners – they can perform above their resource level (in boxing they call this “punching above your weight.”) While preparing for the talk, it occurred to me that I needed to build a business case for investing in relationships as a strategic focus and function.  Here’s what I came up with: 


1. Provision more resources than you are assigned.  If you build up relationships across a company, you can tap into other group’s resources.  This is especially true if you base the relationship on a shared vision that aligns intentions around a win/win outcome. 

2. Gather better intelligence. In my 2nd book (The Likeability Factor), I pointed out a Yale study that discovered that highly likeable sales people sell more because the client gives them strategic information (because they want to work with that rep).  The same is true of managers inside a company.  A few years ago, Google CEO Eric Schmidt told a new hire executive that if he was positive in his encounters with others and built up relationships he would receive great intelligence and insight.  This is the key to getting traction inside an organization — knowing the playing field. 

3. Get forgiveness.  Things go wrong in business, even between team mates.  In many cases, expectations aren’t met, after all, half of our projections are just guesses!  In these situations, relationships act as shock absorbers, allowing you to recover from a setback or a letdown much quicker than if you were an island or even worse, disliked. 

4. Get your point across. In many cases, you must sell a vision into your company and outside to the customer.  It’s hard to get someone’s attention, convince them to buy-in and then drive them to act on what you are talking about.  In my research, the more positive and powerful your relationship, the more likely a person is to listen to you, believe what you say and value your recommendations.  If you feel like you are banging your head against the wall, trying to get others to understand the amazing value proposition of your new product, try a little relationship building first.  Dr. Stephen Covey summed it up best, “seek first to understand, then to be understood.” 

Coming soon, from the same talk, “Four Ways To Cultivate Corporate Relationships”