I’ve been a student of business relationships for the past two decades, deepening and applying my understanding of what works and what doesn’t, what holds us back and what we can do to remove those blocks. I’ve observed these factors in myself, and learned from others—those who have executed them flawlessly and those who have fumbled.
Treat your relationships like your asset portfolio
When it comes to your personal and professional growth, your single biggest asset is your portfolio of relationships. Beyond your educational foundation and professional pedigree, the relationships you choose to invest in will help you perform with purpose today, and identify that next great role, opportunity, or chapter in your life!
You devote attention to managing your financial portfolio—you must similarly invest in your relationship assets with the same commitment and continuity. With so much potentially on the line, the assumptions we make about our strategic relationships put us at great risk. Flawed assumptions can and will undermine your performance today and drain opportunity from your future.
Validate your assumptions
We assume we have a relationship with an individual just because we think we know him or her. We assume these relationships will always be there when we need them, even if we have left them neglected. We assume just because we have known someone for some time in some aspect of our lives, they will do “anything” for us! And yet that is usually far from the truth.
So what assumptions are you making about your portfolio of relationships? Will they lend you a hand in a time of need? Will they invest resources—financial or otherwise—when you solicit for your next great initiative? Will they make introductions or referrals for you? Too often we assume others have an unsolicited vested interest in our success, but how do we know? Have we taken time to observe what is demonstrated by their behavior, versus what they say they do?
In my experience, relationships are an asset that declines in value if energy isn’t invested on a regular timetable. And yet, with only 24 hours in every day, none of us can afford to invest in everyone equally. You must prioritize the most relevant individuals to where you are today and the PERSON you aspire to become (not just the position or accomplishments you aspire to gain). Then you must make time to invest in those relationships.
It is only through regular contact that you validate, void, or verify your assumptions. If you do not understand how your relationships can be better off because of you, and are not communicating how they can help you achieve your desired outcomes, how can you be assets to each other?
Alignment your expectations
To maintain your own high performance, maintain your alignment of expectations with strategic relationships. That requires making time for conversations. Reach out to someone you have not connected with in three or six months and invite them to a cup of coffee or a meal. Connect two people you know would benefit from getting to know each other and make the introduction in person (vs. over email or a phone call). Help someone with a business challenge or an opportunity, without any strings attached. Invite people out for walking meetings (particularly on nice spring days ahead).
In our daily lives, we’re asking people to trust us. What are you doing to genuinely get to know others and give them a chance to get to know, like and trust you? Share your hobby or passion in whatever way you would both enjoy. That could be a workout early in the morning before the minutia of the day takes over, or cooking together, or in my case, riding motorcycles. What is most important is creating opportunities to align what you expect from each other, thus nurturing your relationship.
If you’re not investing in your most valuable relationships on a daily basis, you are very likely making assumptions about the real value of those relationships. Don’t let flawed assumptions undermine your performance by weakening your most important off-balance-sheet asset—your strategic relationships.
- The relationships you invest in will help your performance in the short and long term; do not let flawed assumptions undermine them.
- To valid assumptions, prioritize and then invest frequently and consistently in your relationships, by connecting, offering assistance, or sharing your passions.
- Spend time with your strategic relationships in ways that help others get to know the real you, building a bond of mutual trust.