The Business of Relationships…it’s more than you think

What if you could increase the odds of living a few extra years and increase the odds of building a stronger bottom line in your business during the process?  Would you want to do it?   What if you already had all the necessary tools and equipment to make this a reality?  Would you start using it?

There are very few businesses that don’t include some level of building relationships.   It might be with your employees, co-workers, vendors, or customers – but it’s often superficial. In the working world, it is common to hear people reference their relationship with someone as a “business relationship”.   I guess that term is used to establish a clear boundary between two individuals.  Maybe it is the acceptable way to say “If it wasn’t for your business, you really don’t matter much to me.”

What if there was an opportunity in some of the “business relationships” to not only help others but improve your own wellbeing in the process?  Research has determined there are at least four types of relationships that produce these results.   They are Social Support, Mentoring, Service of Others, & Role Models.   So what’s the big deal, right?  It’s not like you have never heard of these before?  But have you ever overtly viewed all 4 of them as a way to improve your own wellbeing and the wellbeing of your business (employees/customers)?  It requires moving beyond a ‘business relationship’ and connecting in new ways.

Using these relationships in business…

Social Support:   This is both seeking and providing it.  As a business owner or leader that is seeking, focus on engaging with someone you can trust; someone who is interested in your wellbeing.  A good way to define this person is “normally our conversations improve the situation, not hinder it.”  A peer advisory group may also be a good option to consider.    In terms of your employees, co-workers, or customers, you are more likely to be providing social support and often the main requirement is simply being present and the most important component of this is just listening.   Beware of getting into a one-upmanship conversation, “You think you got it bad…this is what happened to me” can actually amp up the stress which is not the intent.   But, if someone has something they need to get off their chest, focus on listening.  And only give advice if you are well informed on the subject.

Mentoring:  This is a great win-win relationship.   As a mentor you usually are teaching on a competency you already are familiar with.  And it is proven that teaching is the most effective way to become even more proficient on a subject.   The mentee wins because they are increasing their aptitude via the positive advice and support of the mentor.   Studies show that the number one result of a mentorship is the increase in self-confidence.  That could apply to both the mentor and the mentee.  For more information and ideas on business mentoring in your work place, check out this great article on mentoring.

Service of Others:  Doing good deeds for others, acts of kindness, helping others, and even community projects are ways to serve others.   There have been some great examples of how random acts of kindness trigger a succession of events.  One recently in the news was a driver paying the toll of the person behind them triggering each recipient to repeat the gesture for hours at a toll booth.  This is also a relationship you can get your entire company and even customers involved in.   A recent local example was Black & Veatch hosting a huge Recycling and Shredding event on a Saturday in their parking lot.

Want to practice this more directly with co-worker or employees? A client of ours occasionally puts unexpected notes of encouragement or thank you in employee mail boxes.   Here’s one we all can try; next time you’re driving, intentionally let someone go in front of you and let us know if you feel better or worse afterwards.   🙂

Role Model:  This is the relationship of modeling after someone else to make yourself better, someone you want to emulate.   Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa were two individuals who inspired millions.  What made them stand out as role models were the value systems they lived by.  Mandela spent 27 years in prison because of what he believed in and Mother Teresa dedicated her life to serving the poorest of the poor.

Unfortunately, there are often people and companies viewed as Role Models who turn out to be anything but.   Prior to its collapse, Enron was viewed by many to be the model of great company.   If you want your business to be a role model for others, you first must look in the mirror and make sure you endorse and practice what you’re projecting.   In recent years, Zappos has become a company many look to as a role model in business.  Seek out a few local companies that inspire you and at their core I bet you find some common denominators.   Encourage your team to be role models not only at work but in the community.  I trust you and your company will benefit from it.

That’s four different ways to build more meaningful relationships at work – how do you think you stack up personally?  How about your business?  Do you practice some of these more than others?  As always we love to hear your comments and feedback.

Chris Steinlage Kansas City Business Coach