The Relationship Engine
Connecting with the People Who Power Your Business
Author: Ed Wallace
Pub Date: October 2016
Print Edition: $24.95
Print ISBN: 9780814437131
Page Count: 240
e-Book ISBN: 9780814437148
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INTRODUCTION: The New Value Proposition for Leaders
The role of a leader has evolved. Tom Feeney, President and CEO of Safelite Auto Glass, recently validated that point for me. He stated, “It is no longer enough to merely direct action; today we must inspire and empower belief which requires us to build more trusting relationships with people than ever before. This applies to leading people within your organization and it applies to becoming a leading brand. Customers no longer buy what you sell; they buy what you stand for. Relevant and sustainable brands are those that build love, loyalty and trusting relationships with their customers.” Wow, this was the first time I ever heard a CEO use the word ‘love’ in their description of leadership!
Such is the paradigm shift for Safelite’s leaders. Their job descriptions now contain phrases like “Think People First” and “Caring Heart” to describe required characteristics and expected interactions with both associates and customers. To date, nearly three quarters of Safelite’s leaders have successfully embraced this leadership “transformation,” evidenced (quantitatively and subjectively) by their rapid growth and strengthening business results. Safelite’s ‘Relational Leaders’ strive to become the kind of people who other people want and enjoy working with and focus on winning every day through the impact tey have on other human beings.
I will share more on Tom and Safelite’s version of Relational Leadership later in this book along with compelling approaches from leading ‘people’ organizations like Teleflex, DaVita Rx, Southwest Airlines, SPI and many others. And it isn’t just large corporations who have enacted these changes. You will also discover that some of the best Relational Leaders are taking this approach at small businesses, like golf driving ranges and animal rescues.
What exactly is a “Relational Leader” then? First, this is not an exclusive club for senior executives. Unlike many leadership models that focus on management and high potential employees, anyone can be a Relational Leader. I have known and continue to marvel at the Relational Leaders I meet at all levels throughout companies, and even a few who are not even in organizations at all. Second, a Relational Leader’s value proposition is to create a superior experience for others as the key driver of business performance. That experience can manifest from working on a corporate strategy all the way down to greeting someone who works in the company cafeteria. Finally, Relational Leaders ‘competitor-proof’ their organizations and themselves through a consistent, intentional focus on investing in the relational capital – the distinctive value created by people in a business relationship – needed to drive performance in today’s complex, quickly commoditized business environment.
Ultimately, a Relational Leader is anyone who intentionally puts the other person’s goals and values at the forefront of each business relationship, creating an exceptional experience for others. This principle is known as Worthy Intent and it allows Relational Leaders to create relationships that immunize them against all competitors both within and outside their organizations.
Most executives and managers will tell you that strong human relationships are critical to their success. They say they also need their team members and employees to be great at developing and maintaining relationships, collaborating, innovating, advocating for company goals and keeping the organization functioning effectively. These leaders would say human relationships - as opposed to digital or what I like to call ‘ethereal’ relationships - are central to their ability to influence and inspire individuals to achieve their organization’s mission. Whether it’s external or internal business relationships, we need to understand how people think and act, what it takes for someone to want to listen to you, help you, work for you, work with you, and even buy from you. In fact, with all of the mergers and acquisitions going on in business today, ultimately, it is how people are regarded, valued, treated and communicated to that will determine if the transaction succeeds or fails to deliver its promises. Sadly, most acquisitions fail to meet their intended promises and goals.
Organizations are first and foremost, comprised of people. All the material factors that undergird a company—patents, intellectual property, real estate, processes, markets, products, services—are useless without harmonious, working relationships among the people involved. Take for instance an intangible asset like a patent. It is basically useless without humans thinking, assessing and assigning a value to it, and then applying it to benefit an individual or group. It is people who have the ideas, who partner and collaborate with each other, who exercise judgment, who foresee the future of the industry, who make connections that spark a new venture, etc. You cannot win new customers or retain old ones without developing and maintaining strong human relationships, and you can’t succeed in managing a company that way either.
Very few leaders, however, would say they take any kind of structural, systematic approach to doing this—probably because they are not aware that this is possible. The common result is a haphazard, almost accidental process of relationship development. In other words, they do the best they can with relationships as the opportunities come along and hope for the best.
Now, let’s think about what’s off about this picture. In any other discipline—music, sports, dance, chemistry, you name it—how are successful results achieved? Each discipline has defining principles, laws or tenets. Only disciplined, persistent adherence to the principles allows for consistent excellence and success.
So, what’s missing or why are leaders missing the relational mark? My experience through many years of research into business relationships and working with 20,000+ professionals and over 250 companies and organizations—has shown me that there are five identifiable principles which lead to effective relationship development and not surprisingly, superior performance. These don’t exist only in the world of business development where most people believe relationships are the most important. They are at the very heart of the practice of the most successful leaders at all levels in organizations and life. Through my experiences and research, I know they can be learned, practiced and improved bringing a surprising level of precision to relationships in organizations.
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