I was chatting with a client recently, and she said, “Well, you know, we’re really in the relationship business.” As I noodled that concept, my first thought was, “Well show me an organization that’s not in the relationship business.”
The client happened to be an international non-profit organization and one could clearly make the connection that relationships play a vital role in their “business”. The next day, as I spoke to a group of bankers, I thought, “well these guys and gals are surely in the relationship business!” My clients in the healthcare, insurance, engineering, manufacturing, and technology industries are all in the relationship business.
Let’s face it. We’re all in the relationship business, regardless of the industry or product or service we provide. We all know that people do business with people they:
- Like, and
Team members are loyal, committed and engaged when their leader is someone they know, like, and trust.
Relationships — building, nurturing, and maintaining them — are at the core of your business. Without customers, you would have no reason for being. Without employees you would likely not be able to provide the goods or services to your customers – or at least not in a timely fashion.
How’s Ya Mama ‘n’ ‘Em? No, I haven’t taken leave of my grammatical senses. This is a very common expression here in South Louisiana.
It is our way of asking how a person is doing, how their family is doing, and what’s going on in their lives outside of work. And it’s a huge part of our culture. I think it’s a practice that, if you implement it in your interactions with others, could just possibly change your work culture too.
Taking a few minutes to engage someone in a conversation about themselves is a great way to invest in the relationship. Most people like to talk about themselves and are flattered that you’re interested enough to ask. The key, though, is that your interest must be sincere and genuine — not like your interactions with your “pseudo friends” on Facebook, (or as my friend James calls it, “Spacebook”).
Theodore Roosevelt said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” This holds true for your team members as well as your customers. In fact, in many ways, you should treat your employees as you would a valued customer. And yes, it does take some effort and a little bit of time. But, consider it a deposit in your relationship account, and always strive to make more deposits than you do withdrawals in that account.
This ability to take an interest in others may not come naturally for everyone. And that’s okay, because it’s a skill you can learn. I had a client once who was an introvert and who needed coaching in this area. He was so analytical, that he wanted a specific formula for creating great relationships. I remember he even asked me how many minutes he would need to engage in conversation with team members. (I could picture him setting an egg timer on the desk to time the conversation precisely!)
There is no magic formula for creating great relationships. Here are just a few quick tips:
- Ask questions about his family. (You can start with “How’s Ya Mama ‘n’ ‘Em?”)
- Notice what she talks about — hobbies, interests, etc. and ask about them. (Ex: “How long have you been competing in underwater basket weaving?”)
- Make a mental note of, say, his weekend plans so that on Monday you can ask how it went. (Ex: “How was the fishing trip? Did ya’ll catch? I must’ve missed your call inviting me to supper.”)
- It’s also okay to engage in brief group conversations after a big weekend or event. (Ex: “How ’bout dem Saints?”)
Your ability to influence team members to perform and produce will hinge directly on the relationship that you have created with them. Taking an interest in them, their family, and life outside of work is a small investment to make with potentially huge returns.
What? You say you can’t afford to take the time to engage in conversation with your employees or customers? I say you can’t afford not to. Your business success depends on it.
By the way, “How’s ya Mama ‘n’ em?”
Today’s guest post comes from Jennifer Ledet, SPHR, who is the owner of Ledet Management Consulting in Thibodaux. Check out Jennifer here, follow her on Twitter, and join her at the Friday session Leadership… Cajun Style! The GUMBO Recipe for Success.