As you can imagine, in my role I’m asked to observe all types of leaders for their relationship-development styles (or lack there of)! But it’s not just leaders that need both specific characteristics to build productive business relationships; it’s each and every one of us. It’s also not just having key characteristics, but the manner in which you apply them that will set you apart on that next project, key initiative, sale, or go-to-market channel partnership. The context in which you apply those characteristics are critical in your ability to engage and influence others, often without authority. Think of it as not just who you are and how you engage others, but when and where you do it.

So, here are just four relationship-development styles I recommend that every one of mentees understand and work diligently to apply in their daily interactions with others:

1. Instructive – Some call it autocratic, but in every relationship someone must lead. Think of a brand new partnership where the other side may be new to the industry and may not bring a lot of experience to the table. Lead the relationship forward until the other person finds their way and is ready to contribute.

2. Participative – This is probably one of my favorite styles where both sides seek respective input and make key decisions together. Works really well in small teams facing a large challenge. The group may have a strong foundation in building the relationships, but not overcoming major hurdles. This is when working together makes the partnership that much stronger.

3. Follow Their Lead – This is a more hands-off approach, allowing for both initiative and latitude for the other side to determine process to effect the desired outcome. Critical to make sure the end result is mutually agreed upon and let them get creative on how to get there. Make sure your passive approach does not come across as uninterested.

4. Adaptive – You may have heard me talk about Adaptive Innovation, where your agility creates a fluid environment that takes into consideration the context of the relationships and the key individuals involved at any point in time. Think of a relationship in crisis – you wouldn’t treat all crises the same; think of relationships with the same level of agility, fluidity, and flexibility to make course correction as necessary.

A great skill I learned years ago is called “mirroring!” Quickly ascertain the other person’s relationship develop style and adapt to that which makes them most comfortable. If they’re comfortable, they’ll invest time to get to know you, hopefully they’ll see that they can trust you, and ultimately buy from you – not just products or services, but ideas and perspectives!

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