Friday, February 25, 2011

Thinking About Business Relationships

“I’m upset with you and your company. We need to talk…”

We have all had difficult moments in a client relationship or with a key partner. Things may have gotten a bit off track and we might not have noticed it. Life gets busy, distractions abound (email, iPhones, text, Angry Birds). The next thing you know, you have an upset or, even worse, a disenfranchised individual before you. But all is not lost. Good things can come from bad moments or situations – if you take the time to stop, listen, and do something different.

“A working relationship takes work.” – John Hanley

If you have a situation where a client or a partner is angry or upset, accept it as a challenge to grow the relationship. It’s your chance to shake off the old and say “Let’s try something new.” Go to the person and with an open heart and a listening mind and explore how and where you need to improve and grow. You need to make a change, even if the issue is not 100% your doing - take the first step.

Here are a few tips to growing successful relationships:

1. Schedule face-to-face time with the person. Don’t “do it on the phone” or by email. Relationship growth takes a commitment of time, face-to-face. Go to them. Do it soon and do it on their turf. Relationship issues do not age well.

2. Remember email, blackberry-speak, and cell chatter are not relationship-building tools or paths. A text message of "Sorry :-(" isn't going to cut it. You need to be willing to invest in the relationship.

3. Go with an open mind and do not be defensive. Even if somebody is off base, keep your cool. Hear them out, ask lots of questions, and see if you can grow beyond the moment. Listen not debate.

4. Try and get them to sum up what their greatest frustration or issue is. Have them review the scope or document or whatever it is that is driving the frustration. Get them talking about what will help get the relationship back on track. Again, you need not commit to a solution, but explore what and how to begin to build a path to one. I like to ask the simple question "I hear and understand what you are saying, so what would it take to get this relationship back on track?"

5. Whatever you commit to, follow through with it and be engaged. You only get one shot so make it your best.

6. Take the high road. In the end, even if there is no resolution, simply being present, listening, and showing and saying that you care makes a positive difference.

“Assumptions are the termites of relationships.”
– Henry Winkler

Most business relationship issues are based on poor assumptions, misunderstanding, miscommunications, or just the fact that everyone is too busy. Use a flare up or a frustrating moment to demonstrate to the client or partner that you are willing to invest time and effort in strengthening the relationship. Use it as a way to build a stronger sense of not only who you are as a person is, but also what the relationship is about.

This is not a someone wins, someone loses. This is about being aware of your relationships. The challenge to you is to see even a difficult moment as a way to grow in your role as a trusted advisor and valued partner in a relationship.

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