The Importance of Relationships in Business and Why It’s Critical to Your Success

I often challenge teams and individuals I work with to think about the health of their overall relationships inside and outside the organizations they work for. Sometimes they look at me puzzled as to why I would ask such a question. 

Really think about it. It starts with knowing those you work with as people, not what they do for the organization but who they are as a human being. That is how the basic human connection is established and the key to any successful relationship is built on the foundation of trust. Imagine if you did not trust your immediate manager, employees or colleagues? How productive and successful are you going to be at moving yourself and team forward? 

Are Your Relationships Working For You?

The more I talk to individuals in the business world, the more I realize that relationships will make or break any individual’s success and level of effectiveness. Sadly, too many leaders fail to recognize when there are problems with their relationships. This lack of awareness sours relationships and can kill engagement levels. That is why I recommend checking in with yourself to honestly assess your relationships – at all levels.

Here is an exercise I recommend doing to objectively to assess the quality of your relationships.  

First, write down the names of all the people – internally and externally – with whom your success is dependent upon; people such as your direct reports, your respective leader, peers, external partners etc. Then, reflect on the strength of your relationship by answering the following questions:

  • Do you have a trusting relationship with this person?
  • How well do you really know the person?
  • Can you call upon the person for support, if needed?
  • How willing are you to provide support if they ask you for assistance?

If you go through this exercise honestly, you will probably find that some of your relationships need nurturing or repair. During unprecedented times like we are experiencing now, we need to be able to depend on one another for support.  If you really do not know the people you work with or the people that work for you, how will you get things done? 

To further build on this, if trust is lacking, your success might be limited. Let us explore some relationship do’s and don’ts to help you build more meaningful and authentic relationships with others.

Ten Dos and Don’ts for Creating Impactful Relationships

#1 – DO Take Your Relationships Very Seriously

According to Globoforce, more than three quarters of us spend more time with our coworkers than with our families. In fact, only 52% of survey respondents said they spend more than 30 hours per week with their families, while a whopping 91% said they spend more than 30 hours each week with their coworkers.

The lesson here is that you cannot take your work relationships lightly. Work relationships are incredibly significant, both personally and professionally, and your organization’s success or failure will hinge upon your ability to create strong relationships with those around you. It is equally important to create an organizational culture where positive relationships matter to everyone, regardless of title or position.

#2 – DON’T Rely Solely on Socializing to Boost Relationships

Certainly, socializing and taking breaks from the normal routine represent great opportunities to converse, socialize and get to know one another. But too many people rely solely on these socialization opportunities to build relationships.

The most effective leaders and individuals in general understand that relationships are built and maintained through connection and ongoing engagement that happens more subtly, on a day-to-day basis. So, do not always make it about business. Seek to build deep and meaningful connections with those around you. Take more of an interest in their lives outside work without crossing boundaries to better understand what motivates and inspires them beyond their role in the company.

#3 – DO Make Sure People Feel Heard

Listening is a sign of respect and is one of the most powerful relationship-building tools available, but often I observe leaders and individuals in general, who fail miserably at listening. To be effective, use one-on-one interactions as opportunities to really listen to what your team members have to say and get a sense of what they are thinking and feeling. Stop talking and start listening if you want to build more meaningful relationships with others. You will be amazed at how much you will learn and how trust starts to form because you showed them the courtesy of listening to them.   

When an organization’s leaders value the voices of individuals, relationships grow in a positive fashion. The most successful and effective leaders are excellent listeners. Are you?

#4 – DON’T Lower Your Expectations

When you are challenged by a relationship, you may be tempted to lower your expectations instead of doing what it takes to make sure your expectations are met. Do not take the easy way out. Instead, work with the individual or team to establish an understanding of expectations and collaborate on a plan to achieve them. 

It is your responsibility as leaders to set expectations and define not only what the objectives are but how behaviorally you will go about meeting or exceeding them by defining the expectations we have of one another. This is another leadership pitfall I observe leaders making. They simply do not take the time to get clear on what they expect from individuals on their team and they also neglect to ask their people what it is they expect from them. Remember, all relationships are a two-way street.

#5 – DO Address Issues ASAP

It is easy to wait until a team member’s annual performance evaluation to bring up issues. Unfortunately, when you wait, you allow relationships to go sour when issues remain that are left unaddressed. By addressing concerns immediately, you can ensure that you stay on the same page and that your people do not have to play guessing games on their performance. 

Coaching cultures enable the flow of communication and feedback to flow in all directions which creates a high performing team and culture.  

#6 – DON’T Break Promises

Relationships need to be built on a foundation of trust for them to work, so it is critical that you honor your promises and commitments. You know firsthand how frustrating it is when someone lets you down and does not deliver as committed. Few things erode trust more quickly than broken promises and failure to deliver on commitments.  

Also, as a leader, if you are not delivering on our promises and commitments then why should your people? Lead by example and create an environment that is action-oriented and results-driven.

#7 – DO Find Common Ground

When you are feeling challenged at building a relationship with someone, getting on the right track requires you to put your ego aside and operate with the greater good in mind. Therefore, you should avoid politics and playing power games to elevate yourself within the organization.  Instead, work to find common ground from which you can move forward effectively. I guarantee you will find something in common with everyone you meet. All that is required on your part is patience and desire to look beyond the “mask” that we all wear sometimes to find common ground with others.

Taking time to connect on the “human level” creates a culture of inclusivity and engagement.

#8 – DON’T Encourage Gossip

Do not encourage gossip and by all means, do not participate in gossip yourself. Gossip is a relationship killer and an organizational poison. As a leader, you need to set a standard of open, honest communication that your people will appreciate. Strong relationships thrive in environments where people speak and act with integrity, but if you allow gossip to fester, you will create relationship challenges that may be difficult to overcome.

#9 – DO Have Patience

It takes time to build and maintain strong, effective relationships with others. A single conversation or meeting is never going to solve relationship issues; it takes a series of interactions to establish – or rebuild – trust. And the process may take an uncomfortably long time. However, your patient efforts will pay off in the form of an engaged workforce that is made up of people who know you’re there for them through the long haul.

#10 – DON’T Dwell on the Past

Looking at past performance and behavior is a good way to determine how to move forward with any relationship. It gives you an opportunity to recognize correctable patterns, and it allows you to assess both the good and the bad about your own leadership style.

Examine the past but focus on the future by discussing goals and desired outcomes.  Encourage others to talk freely about their experiences and make sure they understand that future success is far more important than focusing on things of the past or the old way of doing things.  

Creating an Engaged Workforce by Building Strong Relationships

Your organization is not just an office suite, building or virtual team. It is a collection of people intertwined in relationships with one another. And those relationships will determine the success of your endeavors. As a leader, it is up to you to create a culture that values strong, positive trusting relationships. By focusing on improving the relationships you have with those around you both internally and externally, you will be more successful at achieving your own goals as well as the broader organizational goals and objectives. 

Do you have any additional advice or insight about organizational relationships? Let us know what you think. I also invite you to give me a call today at 1.855.871.3374 or send me an email at Together, we can help you strengthen your relationships and propel your business forward.

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