Whatever kind of business you have, people — be they customers, workers, partners, mentors, etc. — are the heart of it. The relationships you have with them determine how productive you can be and how much growth you can achieve. Leaders are starting to understand this, but they still fumble when it comes to building strong connections. Time and time again, they trip over these same big mistakes….
You’ve probably experienced it: Somebody you haven’t talked to in forever suddenly gets in touch with you. They make some small talk about your family or hobbies so they don’t seem too crass, but then they hit you with a request. At the end of the conversation, it feels like they didn’t really care. They got in, got what they wanted and got out.
When you do this to someone, you’re not really focusing on the relationship with the other person. You’re focusing on the transaction they can have with you.
To be successful, you cannot treat people as a convenience like this. Rather, you should treat them as though they have value on their own, without doing you any favors. Showing some interest in them without any conditions or expectations is what’s going to build trust and make them feel great about helping out when you really need them.
Doing new things or connecting with different people can be scary. You never really know what the outcome will be. There’s always a chance you could fail or your faults could be exposed. It can feel so good to play it safe and stay inside your familiar little bubble.
If you let fear paralyze you, though, then what happens? Sure, you might spare yourself some embarrassment. But you’ll never find new opportunities. You won’t have the chance to allow people to expand your skills or perspective, so what you can take on and the way you think will never change. You won’t find individuals who can add to your support network, so what you can endure or have the resources for won’t improve.
Truly, fearless leadership means becoming OK with uncertainty and taking some risk despite it. This applies just as much to building relationships as it does to tasks like allocating your budget or deciding which training to do. When you realize your anxieties are trying to put you in a box, refuse to accept it.
Related: Are Untrained Managers Ruining Your Business?
We’ve all had to make some pretty tough decisions about what to prioritize, especially over the past year. We’ve had to decide whether to invest a few more minutes to check in on Joe from accounting, for example. Who did we actually care about during this time? Was it just the people who were easiest to reach? Was it the people who could give us something?
Now, it’s natural for some relationships to grow while others fizzle out. People and their goals can change, and what you need and can give isn’t going to stay the same throughout your life. But real relationships require continual investment. You can’t just drop them when reaching out is harder, has no clear ROI, or takes more out of you. They’re meant for the long haul.
Don’t get so busy that you don’t see people for who they are anymore. Make a conscious decision to identify your most important relationships. Figure out what each of them need to thrive and what you need to do to ensure their success. Make time during your work week to nurture those relationships so the connections become truly timeless.
Even if you are massively talented or knowledgeable, relationships are what really drive you forward. If you want to thrive as a leader, be mindful of these common mistakes in building and maintaining relationships. Do everything you can to go beyond convenience, break out of your comfort zone, and put some real time into others. With that effort, your framework for success will be incredibly solid.