— October 19, 2018
Years ago, I found myself sitting in a small office discussing the idea of moving my family cross country and going into business with a man I barely knew. Prior to this meeting, we had only had a couple of phone conversations, but there was something about his behavior that led me to trust him. I made the leap of faith, and for the last decade, we’ve run a profitable business together.
Successful professional relationships are built on a foundation of trust. Most agree with the leadership gem, “Every transaction begins with a relationship.” However, one of the most common questions I’m asked when coaching leaders is how to build a long-standing, committed and trusting one. This type of alliance is what turns the cogs of enterprise, whether we are trying to attract a new customer, strengthen a team, collaborate on a new project or conduct a performance review. At the core is a mindset of trust.
Here are the five keys to building trusting, stable, productive relationships.
1. Recognize the Person’s Value
Imagine that you have in your hand two $ 100 bills. One is crisp and new, while the other is crumpled, dirty and ripped. Which bill is worth more? Neither. They are equally valuable despite their conditions.
In this same light, recognize your colleague is a fellow human who has the same value as you or anyone else. We are all living, breathing beings with feelings, experiences, dreams, preferences, challenges and shortcomings. Do you approach interactions with others from a mindset of shared value, humanity and connection? For some, this mindset comes naturally, but for others, it takes thought work to truly believe.
This brings us to the next critical key to building trust.
2. Develop Respect For Them
Everyone brings something to the table. Find a skill or attribute you admire in this person beyond just their existence as a fellow human. This might be strong financial acumen, punctuality, knowledge, innovative thinking or their sense of humor. No matter what it is, recognizing it will help you develop respect for them.
For some individuals, this may be something abundant or easy to recognize, but for others, it may require more focused effort on your part to discover. Respect for a specific skill or attribute helps to minimize condescension, a relationship derailer. When we nurture our connection with a mindset of admiration, we don’t focus on who is better. Rather, we acknowledge that both parties are bringing something valuable to the relationship.
Ask yourself, “Do I pause to focus on a respectable skill or attribute before interacting with another? Do I express my admiration for them?”
3. Keep Commitments
Once you recognize your colleague as a fellow human who is your equal in value and express your respect for them, you can focus on following through with your commitments.
When we do what we say we’ll do, we create a predictable pattern of confidence and success. This builds trust, both in ourselves and with others.
On a macro level, as humans, we strive to bring order to chaos and predictability to change. There will always be unexpected disappointments in life. Doing all we can to ensure that our business relationships do not become one of those disappointments is worth the investment. Keeping our commitments is critical to an ongoing, productive relationship.
Ask yourself, “Am I extending opportunities to rely on others? How do I monitor my own commitments to ensure I meet them?”
4. Find a Common Objective
This fourth key is what transforms an unproven business relationship into a productive one. Identify at least one common objective or aligned goal between you and them, and plan together on how best to achieve it. Work as a team to accomplish it, and meet often to discuss your progress. Yes, every transaction begins with a relationship, but it gains traction by identifying and acting on a shared purpose. Taking time to find this ensures that your thoughts and actions are aligned and that you are headed in the right direction — toward success.
Ask yourself, “Have I initiated talks to establish a common objective? Have I taken this person’s ideas into serious consideration?”
5. Give It Time
By sincerely investing in the first four keys mentioned, the probability and speed of establishing a trusting, productive relationship is very high. It is not, however, a guarantee.
Going back to human value and individuality, we know that each of us has the freedom to choose; thus, positive relationships cannot be forced. We each come with our own unique perspectives on human interaction and openness to trusting. Be patient with the person and process, and remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Let’s use these five keys as a measuring stick against the successful relationships we’ve had or currently have, as well as the relationships that never seemed to take off.
- Which keys do you already do well?
- Which keys have failed you in the past?
- Which keys can you utilize better to build current relationships or to repair floundering
or damaged ones?
I encourage you to take action now. Discuss these five keys with your team, and be open to acting on their suggestions. Leading from a mindset focused on productivity and mutual respect is your best chance at developing the desired trust and satisfaction you seek in your professional relationships as well as your relationships outside the workplace.