Having Great Relationships is the required foundation for future success

The importance of relationships is generally understood in business. Given there is little opposition to the concept it is easy to assume that all will act accordingly and need little guidance. However, we must be consistently intentional about the Relationships that are built and maintained with our Clients and Team Members. I am fortunate to have been brought up in environments where Relationships were at the forefront of how we cared for Clients and our Team Members, therefore it has always been the #1 focus and I would argue that it is what has made our organization special and attractive.  In regards to measurable results: Long-tenured team members, high client retention rates, and consistently performing at the highest level in our sector, are all attributed to our intense focus on Relationships, more than anything else.

Not many people in life give more than they receive (I recommend the book “Go Giver” if you have not read it), but that is exactly how great relationships start and how they are maintained. When this happens, the other side gives back in the form of trust which is the centerpiece of any great relationship. The hardest thing is training on this concept and getting people to really understand what it takes, and then to make sure they start doing it rather than just thinking they are. In regards to our clients, we should make sure to continuously train team members (typically sales will have the most responsibility in this area) on all that they should be doing to build great relationships, and we should inspect their efforts along the way and provide feedback/mentoring as needed. In regards to our team members, every Leader and Manager must have the same level of understanding as to what great relationships are and the commitment required to build them with those they lead, which is the only way for the concept to be ingrained in the organization’s culture.

While the concept of relationships being important is easy to understand, it is also the easiest to ignore in the face of other more tangible challenges. As we grow, our organizations will need new systems, additional team members, and we will confront many new issues. While all of these things should and will change, the one constant has to be our commitment to having the best Relationships with our Clients and our Team Members. Great Relationships will not only get us through it all, they will also be the reason that we lead the way.

Never “send” a client or prospective client to another department, or have them do what you can easily do for them.

As a consumer, have you ever thought… “Did they really just tell me to call someone else”, or “Did they really just make me fill out that form when they have my information right in front of them-don’t they want my business?”.

As organizations grow and become more complex, communication and systems are key in regards to retaining the ability to consistently delight clients, and delighting clients is the only way to grow. In my experience, communication is routinely the problem/solution. Yes, systems are key for long-term sustainability, but the human communication element can fix or break any system. Here are some simple examples:

Bad Client Communication:

  1. “You will need to contact our X Department”
  2. “We need you to fill out this application”

Good Client Communication:

  1. “I am going to go ahead and connect you with support by submitting a ticket on your behalf, so stick with me here.  Before I hit submit and give our support team a separate heads up, can you confirm for me that I have captured the issue correctly?”
  2. “I have all of your info right here, so let me fill that out in an effort to save you time. I will then have you verify/complete the form and we can get everything going asap”

This likely seems like common sense to those who innately focus on delighting clients.  However, it is easy for growing organizations to make the mistake of assuming every team member (especially newer team members) understand the commitment to delighting customers; it is something that must be ingrained in our culture, which means it has to be very apparent in the behavior of every person and department in the organization.

It is all about leaving the client/prospective client with positive closure every step of the way. And in those times when the answer is not apparent, recognizing that those are the times to shine as a true partner rather than just a vendor; these are the times that we get to dig in and seize the opportunity to show others the extent of our commitment to serve. I routinely reflect on how strong of a characteristic it is to genuinely CARE; it beats just about any strategy.

The opening of a leader’s eulogy

  • He cared
  • He helped others grow
  • He was self-aware
  • He was a good student and a good teacher
  • He made a big impact on people and things
  • He was decisive
  • He was fair
  • He was responsible
  • He knew the importance of having a great culture
  • He did what he said he would
  • His passion motivated others
  • He pushed himself and others to improve everyday
  • He held others accountable
  • He set clear expectations for what success looked like
  • He always did the right thing
  • He never made excuses
  • If something had never had been done before, he dug in and became a pioneer
  • He was respectful
  • He was able to see things from others’ point of view
  • He worked hard
  • He led by example

 

It is important to pause, relax, and thank the leaders around you….

No leader has success without the loyalty, drive, ingenuity, and tenacity of the other leaders on their team. The role of a “leader of leaders” is to mentor/motivate, challenge, and hold them accountable, but we must not forget to routinely let them know how much they are appreciated. Similarly, we should show appreciation to those who lead us as well. Just think of when someone you lead, or someone who leads you, takes the time to ask how things are going and/or proactively lets you know how much you are appreciated. How does that make you feel?

While it is so easy to do, we must fight against the tendency to assume other leaders are not in need of positive feedback. The one on one sharing of the appreciation we have for other leaders in our lives is something they are more than deserving of, and it is a necessity in creating/maintaining a great culture and ever-lasting relationships.

For any MCCi folks reading the post and for those who have led me……… Thank you! Saying it here is not good enough; I know I can do a better job of putting this in practice and will be holding myself accountable to act.

Stew before you Spew

Leadership is about getting your team “wanting to” rather than “having to”. The same goes for when and how we react to negative news, inquiries, and concerns that those on our team voice to us; the easy route is to be impulsive in our response, however the leadership route is rarely the easy one.

An impulsive reaction can result in:

  • Failing to envision the situation from other vantage points
  • Futile and unnecessary negative emotion being thread through our response
  • Embarrassment for the other party if done in front of others
  • The other party no longer seeing us as leaders/mentors

Impulsive reactions to negative situations will not leave others on the team “wanting to” rather than “having to”, and when people feel that they have to do something the full potential of that person, the organization, and the leader will never be met.

As a closing thought, here is the definition of Spew: To expel large quantities of (something) rapidly and forcibly.

People listen to people who listen

Avoidable signs of not listening:

  • Hostile tone
  • Passive aggressive questioning
  • Response before thought / considering viewPoint of other party
  • Lack of empathy / unwillingness to acknowledge concerns and opinions of others
  • Negative body language
  • Use of the wrong communication medium / inviting miss-understanding

When others make one or more of these mistakes, be a leader and do not oblige with the same approach/mistake. If you are their leader, do take the time to reflect on their approach and coach afterwards. If it is a peer, realize that taking the same approach in a response fuels divide; you can’t make someone else grow, but how you react will have an impact and influence regardless of the chain of command.

And when we are guilty of not listening we should have humility, correct it, and move forward together. Grow from it – it is what others expect and what will be respected.

Be most thankful for the leaders in your life who give guidance and feedback, but who let you/require you to lead and do the work.

I remember a moment 15 years ago when I told my boss, and told him with conviction, that I realized my job was for him to not to have to worry about what I was doing at all.   My job was to eliminate the need for him to have to manage me or any part of the business I was running.   The reaction was a genuine expression of relief on his part and we have operated under that creed without wavering for the last 15 years.   The other thing it did was allow him to go focus on other ventures and continue growing (This is what I would call nirvana for a leader; to have other leaders impacting growth in an exponential way).  Another vivid memory from an event that occurred in the last 3 years was when a new and very strategic team member came on board.  That person said the same thing, except this time it was directed a me; I was relieved and rejuvenated; it is what I wanted and needed.

Managers lay out a plan and tell their folks what to do.  They inspect, coach, and make sure the results are being realized.   The team members they manage expect them to do these things, which often limits strategic thinking, leadership development, and overall growth all the way down the food chain.   Organizations really only get the boost and the growth when managers transition to leaders and have more expectations from their teams, and of themselves.  It is on the existing leaders in the organization to stop doing what they have always done, and let/require the up and coming managers/leaders take the reins.   This requires acceptance that mistakes will happen, which is alright as long as new/different inspection systems are put in place so that mistakes are not detrimental.   This also requires managers to subscribe to the leadership concept of “if it is to be, it is up to me”, and the underlying principle that their job is to make sure their leaders do not have to develop strategy, worry, or handle execution for the area they are in charge of.   It is also on the manager/up and coming leader to not let their leader do their work.   Leadership development is a two-way street, especially in high growth organizations where everyone is growing and replacing themselves.

Regardless if we are thinking about Management or Leadership concepts, everyone needs to feel supported.   Even the President/CEO needs to feel supported by their Board, Leadership Team, etc..  However, there is a huge difference when it comes to support expectations and how they differ between Leaders and Managers.  In summary, the less managing/leading you need yourself, the more of a leader you have become.

Manager’s (Someone who has not crossed the Leadership Chasm) beliefs on the type of support they need:

  • Leadership training
  • Guidance
  • Feedback on performance
  • Assistance with personnel matters
  • Assistance drafting strategy
  • Assistance creating inspection systems
  • Assistance in motivating team members
  • Accountability

Leader’s beliefs on the type of support they need:

  • Feedback/Accountability from their Leader/Board – Primarily when they ask for it.
  • Validation of the plans, inspection systems, culture/people/motivation strategy that they put together

So if you would classify yourself as a Manager or an Up and Coming Leader, who is trying to get cross the chasm into full leadership, have you looked your leader in the eye and said – “I got this and I understand and am committed to doing what it takes so you do not have to worry about my area”?  If you are not ready to say this – don’t.  And only say it if you really understand what it means to fully lead and ready for that awesome responsibility.   Also know that your leader wants you to do this, expects you to get there, and that it is your growth path.   Own it – Crush it!