Relationships matter. When someone trusts, respects, has confidence in, and wants to work with us, it can go a very long way toward ensuring our success. And we need to realize that we must earn—and renew—that trusting relationship, every day.
My experience as an executive in the corporate world, and now as a leadership consultant and coach to CEOs and senior executives in businesses and nonprofit institutions, is that too few in senior management realize that relationships with those who choose to do business with them (their external clients) are vitally important—as are their relationships with the people within their organizations.
Value of relationships
Your relationships with your people are every bit as important. They both are top priorities! As the renowned management professor and expert Tom Peters said some time back, “Take good care of your people and they will take good care of your clients.”
Today, the business world is more demanding than ever. When I was growing up, my father got to his office 8:30 and left at 5:30, and did not bring home hours of work each night and each weekend, as most of us do today. And today, it seems that we have to do more with fewer people. We also work in a super competitive environment with pressure on fees and profit margins. In the past, companies dictated to clients what their fees would be. Those days are long gone.
As managers, and hopefully as leaders, you must drive for results. That is certainly true for a publically owned company that has to meet 90-day financial targets. For privately owned companies, the pressure is still there too.
Certainly, there is the need to focus on numbers and relationships with clients or risk losing them. What some senior managers fail to realize is that they must also focus on internal relationships—and not just with executive, operating, financial, technology, marketing, talent management, human resource, and other chief officers.
Leaders must earn the admiration, respect, and trust of everyone in their companies. If they don’t, they will experience high turnover, and those workers that stay will likely lose their passion and put a little less into their work.
Indeed, bad morale is a disease to organizational spirit. The challenge is to make time to do everything. We have to spend less time in meetings and more time out of our offices, being with our people, acknowledging and thanking them for their good work, and very definitely asking them for their ideas and advice. Leaders can learn so much—and employees will feel valued and heard, which is so important for morale and employee engagement.
Importance of conversations
There is a huge difference between knowing someone and having a solid relationship. It’s the nature of our relationships that matters. To really develop a solid relationship with mutual respect, we must spend time with that person in conversation, asking about them, listening carefully, and being genuinely interested, supportive, and caring. Our people need to know that senior leaders are there for them—to help them learn, grow, and succeed.
Earlier this year, I wrote “Conversations are the Work of a Leader,” borrowing the phrase from Susan Scott’s wonderful book, Fierce Conversations. I received appreciative feedback from a great many executives for the reminder of their duty to be out speaking with the people who are actually doing the work of their companies.
This is one of many reasons why businesses would do better with women sharing significant management and leadership responsibilities. They tend, in general, to be more naturally inclined towards conversations, relationships and thinking about the team. There are many exceptions, for some women, this is not their strength, and some men are excellent at this.We want our people to be aligned, excited about their work, and having admiration, respect, and loyalty toward senior management. So think of and treat your people as your internal clients. They are truly vital to success.