Let’s say you started a relationship with a customer, a partner, a supplier, or an employee a couple of years ago. Over this time, you became interested, intrigued, engaged, and exchanged value. You did your share of conference calls, debriefs, planning sessions, go to market campaigns, text messages, webinars, and necessary visits – for the social networking junkies, you’ve done your version of Facebook, Yelp, and Groupon. But all the bells and whistles haven’t been enough to deliver significant value to either side. In short, the relationship hasn’t significantly improved the outcome of either side. You can’t say that you’re dramatically better off because you’ve known or worked together. Now what? It’s time to push the relationship restart!
That’s right – shut it down, pivot the relationship and re-launch it with a renewed focus, enthusiasm, and passion – not for the input (what you do and how you do it) but the outcome! What the relationship needs and the narrative you must write is a high-octane, no guts, no glory strategic relationship building. Those who have successfully pivoted a relationship from the edge of a cliff to the summit will tell you that it is actually the result of careful reflection and calculated investments. Here are five key attributes of a successful relationship pivot:
1. Be Candid – You need some honest reflection, together! Visit over a series of dinners and count on the friendship to have an open discussion about the relationship and what each side needs from it. Openly talk about why the relationship hasn’t been deemed “successful.” Discuss why you are stuck and why no amount of effort have created personal and professional growth for either side (keep in mind that relationships are between individuals and never between logos!). What are some metrics that can candidly tell you that it’s time to start over? Is the relationship worth salvaging? Do both sides have or can they develop a vested interest in its future?
2. Paint a New Vision – Way too many relationships do “planning” – extrapolation of the concrete or known present forward vs. developing a strategy: a nebulous vision for the future and a path to get there, knowing that it will take course correction. Ask yourselves if you could do anything, what would you do? Ask a few questions like: What is the relationship most passionate about? What unique value do you bring to the table? What are you really good at not just talking about or promising, but in fact delivering? What does the other side, not just want, but really need from the relationship? Remember that there are three types of needs: Existing, Impending, and Created! How can you jointly develop a definition of relationship success? What are you not getting from your other relationships that this one can provide? Is this a relationship of “must have” or “nice to have?” The answers should be simple, direct, and focused!
3. Do a Pre-Mortem – Many teams and organizations are great at post-mortem; “could’ve, should’ve, only if we had done this or that back then.” A pre-mortem is getting both sides around a table and shooting all the possible holes at the ideas, the strategy, the path, the people, the processes, the tools, the commitments. This is a chance to face your fears together. You have to look beyond the risk to the opportunity and the desired outcomes. You also have to build a relationship that can learn from failures, setbacks, and the disappointments to apply to that learning not to regaining the status quo, but to create a new level of growth in the relationship. It’s the fundamental difference between problem solving and innovating!
4. Focus – Relationships go bad with misaligned expectations. Expectations get misaligned when you get distracted. Reduce the team members, items on the agenda, number of interactions to the bare necessity to achieve milestones. Relationships often want to believe each other at the onset and believe-in each other with execution, performance and results. Go for positive inertia with small wins. What’s crucial to achieving the objectives toward the pre-determined milestones? Who are the critical hubs and spokes in the relationship? How can you learn from every conversation, every interaction, what’s a core function and what can be done without or outsourced? You don’t have to go at this alone – surround yourself with experts: coaches, mentors, internal or external resources – who don’t feel that they have to impress anyone and can focus their expertise on key facets of the relationships and the desired strategic outcome. Never lose sight of the outcome!
5. Push Restart Completely – Make sure you shut down the old relationship and don’t rehash any of the old events, what did or didn’t get done before, who did or didn’t deliver on their parts. It’s risky to completely shut down the relationship, but it’s critical if you’re really going to gain a fresh start. You’re not going to be certain that everyone will be on board with the new strategy, but once you make the decision to pivot the relationship, really commit to doing what it takes to make it successful. No distractions, no detractors, no naysayers, and no whiners whose favorite phrases are “that’ll never work,” or “we tried that last time!”
IF the relationship is worth salvaging, sometimes a restart and a relationship pivot is what it takes!