January 9, 2017
Most people recognize the tremendous value of relationships in an organization. But at the same time, the idea of relationship building typically gets short shrift in large companies.
One result of this paradox is that intracompany relationships are weak, according to Ed Wallace, president and chief relationship officer of the Relational Capital Group. He is the author of The Relationship Engine: Connecting with the People Who Power Your Business (AMACOM, 2016).
Wallace spoke with Edgewise, AMA’s podcast series, about relationship building. He points out that relational leaders go well beyond the “ethereal relationships” that people form through networking, LinkedIn connections, and the like. They put those connections to use in a meaningful way.
Here are two steps that Wallace recommends:
Connect relationships to your goals. Relational leaders look at their networks and connections and think about how those people fit with the projects or business goals they’re trying to accomplish.
“As they think about those goals, they start looking at the relationships and they connect belly buttons—not functions, not organizations, but real human beings—with those goals,” Wallace said. “Then, they create plans and strategies to launch, advance, and sustain those relationships.”
Be intentional in creating and sustaining relationships. Relational leaders not only think strategically about business relationships, but also follow some key principles in advancing and sustaining those relationships.
For example, one core principle defined by Wallace is to demonstrate “worthy intent” in your relationships. When you put the other person’s interest ahead of your own, that person’s behaviors will validate that he or she believes your good intentions.
Other key principles, said Wallace, are to create a foundation to understand the other person’s goals, passions, or struggles; to make every interaction with the other person matter; to value people before processes; and to connect performance to a greater purpose.
These principles provide a process for relational leadership. As Wallace noted, “We have processes for everything in life, from buying a house to getting up and brushing our teeth in the morning. Why aren’t we thinking about relationships intentionally?”