Building better business relationships

Are you making a New Year’s resolution to build better business relationships?

Discover 10 relationship-building strategies to help develop successful and sustained business relationships.


Jennie Marshall | 13 January 2016

Building and maintaining relationships and working well with others is valuable currency in today's business world. People who have the ability to build and maintain strong relationships are more effective and achieve greater success than those who ignore or struggle with this.

At times, we may have thought 'networking' was about schmoozing others, collecting business cards, pumping up our importance, looking good. However, is it that the true value and essence of networking is really about connecting with others, and how we can help and learn from each other?

In today's world, every business is a 'relationship' business. The quality and impact of your work, and the profitability of your business, depends upon relationships - with customers, co-workers, and competitors; with suppliers, distributors, and support services; with direct reports, senior managers, and boards. In business, as in life, relationships play a key role in success or failure. The most accomplished leaders are those who are successful at building relationships. They shift the focus away from themselves and focus their attention on the needs of the other party in the relationship. This isn't completely altruistic; people who do this know that by giving, they will also get something back.

Building solid, genuine connections with peers, colleagues, customers and clients, and other professionals is recognised as a differentiator of those businesses that thrive over the long haul. But relationships don't just 'happen'; they are cultivated and developed. Any successful relationship is unique to the parties involved, whether personal or business, and it evolves over time. They start out tentative, with expectations, develop strength based on the experience, and mature into becoming a trusted relationship.

So why do relationships fail?

There are many reasons why relationships fail, including unmet expectations, unfulfilled commitments, wanting to be right, poor communication, and personality conflicts. Think about those relationships you would like to develop in your business. Who are they with? How can you develop them? And how will you sustain them? Where have you had successful relationships and what contributed to their success? Equally important, think about those relationships that have been unsuccessful. How did you contribute to their downfall?

10 relationship-building strategies

Relationship building is a critical leadership skill, and one that can be learned. Whilst it is intuitive to some, for many it is a challenge because each relationship is unique and situational, and requires adjustment, compromise, and negotiation. Here are some steps to building successful and sustained relationships:

  1. Be authentic. First, know yourself. Focus on becoming the very best person you can be. Be the best partner. Be aware of your impact on others. Be respectful.
  2. Be invested in THEIR success. Make the relationship a priority. Demonstrate your commitment. Tell them.
  3. Focus on WE. Move from "I have all the answers" to "Together, we have all the answers."
  4. Don't keep score. Do what you say you will do. Follow through. Be consistent.
  5. Listen with your ears and mind wide open. Be open to hearing what the other person is really saying - not simply the words, but the emotions, concerns, fears. As Stephen Covey tells us: seek first to understand, then to be understood
  6. Share information. Communicate well and communicate often. Keep others informed of any changes that may impact them and their expectations.
  7. Be human. If you make a mistake or misjudgement, admit it quickly.
  8. Speak with courage. With a genuine concern for the relationship, be direct and honest. It's not about being blunt: it's about sharing your thoughts in a way that opens up possibilities. Provide feedback to create value. And listen to feedback.
  9. Appreciate others. Look for what is going well and tell the person. Understand your interdependence on each other. Enjoy your time together.
  10. Stay connected. After a project or an assignment ends, stay in touch with this new relationship during the year. Consider making a quick call or sending an article you think the person would find interesting. Simple but very powerful.

Follow these strategies and you'll be well on your way to building better relationships in 2016.

The Dalai Lama can summarise this blog for me with their quote:

"We human beings are social beings. We come into the world as a result of others' actions. We survive here in dependence on others. Whether we like it or not, there is hardly a moment of our lives when we do not benefit from others' activities. For this reason, it is hardly surprising that most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationships with others." 

Start the year off as you mean to go on. Take some time with us to examine your business relationships - where they stand now, where you'd like to take them, where you can improve, where you'd like to be a year from now.

If you are looking to update your skills, QA offer a wide range of training courses to help you develop professionally.

QA Training | Jennie-marshal

Jennie Marshall

Learning Programme Director (Enterprise and Outsource Services)

Jennie Marshall is an award winning learning professional (Winner of the 2016 Learning Performance Institute, Learning Professional of the Year Bronze Award), who joined QA in 2010 as a Learning Consultant in the Leadership, Management and Business Skills team. She has gone on to progress through various positions to her current role of Learning Programme Director where she now designs, develops and manages the delivery of end to end learning programmes. She is an experienced and dedicated learning professional, with expertise including management, leadership and talent, and training and facilitation developed within a variety of environments. Jennie has a proven track record of delivering blended, multi modal learning programmes using Learning Management System platforms and in a more traditional face to face setting, is at home with small and large audiences. She is a proven developer of people and is accredited in the use of a variety of tools including Strength Deployment Inventory®, Emergenetics®, Hogan®, Prism® and Worldsview™ as well as being an NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) Master Practitioner and Kirkpatrick Certified Professional (Bronze).
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