Your ability to influence increases exponentially when you know your constituents personally. Meet with them regularly. Pay keen attention to what motivates them. Seek to understand what their priorities are, and what challenges they face. Attend specifically to the key points of intersection between your areas of responsibility and theirs. Meet with the purpose of clearly communicating your needs and aligning on mutual direction and expectations. Follow through on any commitments you make. Work consciously to be widely known as trustworthy. Extend trust to others, as it is valuable currency in every business. Finally, be grateful for and acknowledge the contributions of others. Indeed, no man is an island, and our successes are usually made possible by the efforts of others.
Powerful connections are made by the exceptional executives who communicate in compelling ways and reach well beyond superficial transactions to form deep, trust-based relationships of mutuality, vulnerability, and clarity. Their legacy becomes a positive reputation within the organisation for consistently delivering business results and for genuinely respecting and caring for those who deliver them.
Importance of relationships
Too often leaders fail because they put work and tasks before relationships and do not realise it is the relationship that enables the task. Intent matters. The primacy leaders place on authentic connection with others is a cornerstone of success. Building credibility with seasoned peers whose businesses contribute disproportionately to top and bottom line success requires that you balance their needs and your acknowledgement of what you can learn from them while finding your voice as a peer and asserting the needs of your business with clarity and conviction. Competition among peers is healthy to the degree that it makes the organisation stronger, but what is most critical is the ability to gain alignment and then acting in concert.
One of the trickier relationship transitions to navigate is moving from peer to boss. It is an artful challenge, but remembering you need others to succeed in business is a good start. Failure to secure true connection with those along your value chain, especially your subordinates, will result in a lack of willingness on their part to make sacrifices for your benefit and that of the organisation.
Consistent, informal interaction is key. It’s through informal drive-bys that leaders have the most influence and impact in shaping and moving the business forward. Healthy debate and productive conversations begin with a personal connection. Take time to check in and get to know someone better. Think of every conversation as an opportunity to positively influence people and the business. The questions you ask provoke thinking, and you influence others by sharing your own experience.
People want to be dealt with honestly. While at times it is difficult, people respond most positively to candid, respectful, and direct communication. Speaking the truth can be uncomfortable sometimes, and many aren’t terribly skilled at it, but it is vital. There is also power in giving sincere praise. Public acknowledgement, personal “atta boys”, and especially the occasional hand-written note all enhance your ability to influence. All serve to build mutual respect, confidence and commitment. Strong connections and relationships “grease the skids” of organisations and help accelerate the work that must be done.