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"Always recognize that human individuals are ends, and do not use them as means to your end."- Immanuel Kant

Here's a challenge for you: Ask five team members what they think a strong business relationship looks like. Did you get five different answers? If so, it's probably time to start aligning your team with a little help from defined Critical Success Factors (CSFs).

In some circles, CSFs are also known as Key Results Areas (KRAs). Whatever you call them, they are one of the keys to achieving goals - from the overarching company mission to the everyday projects. If you've made relationship-building a goal for your company, you need to get everyone on board with the critical success factors of a relationship so that they know how to shape their interactions with others - both in-house and with clients.

You've Got To Have Trust

You know that trust is the key to any great relationship. You can't expect to have a solid working relationship with a team that doesn't trust each other, and customers will turn on you the minute you do something to break their trust. There are three aspects that come with trust:

  1. Personal Trust - The other person has to believe in what you're saying. They want to know that when you (or your business) set expectations, that you'll follow through.
  2. Trust in Expertise - You've got to be competent. You wouldn't trust a first-year medical student to give you open-heart surgery. You can't expect to build trust if you can't show proof of your expertise.
  3. Agenda-Free Trust - Don't approach a relationship-building with an agenda. Abandon your expectations and focus on what you can do for the other person, not what they can do for you.

While trust is a critical success factor for relationships, it isn't built overnight. It takes time, and you've got to have a road map in place for building that trust. You do that through meaningful conversation.

Conversation Is Not A Monologue

You probably don't enjoy dealing with people who talk all the time and never listen. Your clients and peers feel the exact same way. When you're talking, you're not listening to the other person. And if you're constantly talking, you will appear as though you've got something to hide or you've got an agenda.

How can you meet your customers' needs if you don't listen to what those needs are? How can you help your employees grow if you don't know what they need from their leadership? The only way to understand what someone is thinking and lay the foundations for trust is to ask questions - and then listen to the answers. This is an important skill for everyone on the team, from salespeople to your billing clerks. Encourage everyone to speak less and listen more. Remember, we have two ears and only one mouth.

Just Do What You Say You'll Do

Following through on your commitments is rather simple, and yet how often do we find ourselves chasing down people or projects? Just as asking questions lays the foundations for trust, so does keeping your commitments.

Encourage your team to stay in contact with customers and peers. If they think they can't deliver on a commitment, demonstrate that it's better to speak up and keep them in the loop so that they can adjust their own expectations or timeline, rather than simply leave them hanging. There's nothing worse than someone who avoids your calls and emails when you're looking for them.

Relationship-building isn't difficult, but it does take time. Trust, listening, and follow through are critical success factors that your team should master. Communicate these CSFs to your team, and model the behavior you want to see to get your team focused on strong relationships with their colleagues, peers, and clients.


Larry Hart

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