How to develop successful business relationships

Organisations are collections of human beings and the success of our businesses are grounded in our relationships with each other and with our customers.

As business owners, we might have a great vision, incredible ambition, a clear sense of purpose and construct the best strategy in the world, but if we have poor quality relationships inside and outside the business, ultimately, we will probably fail.

With building strong relationships being central to achieving our business goals, Dr Alan Watkins, author of 4D Leadership, reveals how leaders can do this better;

Too many leaders fail to understand the importance of relationships

Unfortunately, today too many leaders have a one-dimensional focus. They are so preoccupied with what they need to do (IT dimension) to make their business perform that they often fail to pay sufficient attention to the relationships and interpersonal dynamics (WE dimension) that drive all the IT.

At least one third of our time should be spent on the people issues; finding and recruiting the right talent, developing our leaders and teams and motivating our people. And there is evidence that the return on investment (ROI) on people is significantly greater than the ROI on technology or other IT dimension things.

Hiring the wrong people can be an expensive mistake. About half of all new hires fail and the cost is 50-200% of their first year’s salary. But the right people can add massive value. In fact, a recent study revealed that good leaders add three times as much economic value as poor leaders.

Or, as Mark Zuckerberg said, “Someone who is exceptional in their role is not just a little better than someone who is pretty good, they are 100 times better”.

The bottom line is that if we are serious about performance we need to develop great people and great relationships. But even that would not be sufficient for long-term sustainable success, for that we need to take a 4D approach.

Competitive Advantage through a 4D approach

The most advanced leaders realise that in today’s volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world a multi-dimensional nuanced approach will work better than narrow one-dimensional focus.
4D Leadership - business owners, leaders
In short, the best leaders operate well in all three dimensions (I, WE and IT, or being, relating and doing), and recognise that they also need to develop in the fourth dimension (4D Leadership), i.e. the level of sophistication in the I, WE and IT dimensions. This means deliberately cultivating our ability in the WE dimension to improve the quality of our relationships.

Specifically investing time in improving the relationships with the people you manage so you can get the best out of them; better understanding your stakeholders to secure their support and confidence; and more deeply listening to your customers to build a sustainable the long-term future for your business.

It is also vital to recognise that developing more altitude in the WE dimension is massively enhanced by simultaneously developing yourself in I dimension.

Start with being, how you show up (the I dimension)

Our ability to inspire and lead others is entirely dependent on our interior landscape. This means what emotional state we are in, our morality, our ego maturity, the value system we operate from, our cognitive precision and our energy.

Let’s take our emotional state for example. Unless you are an Oscar-winning actor, you will not be able to hide your true emotional state with a well-crafted script written by your Comms Director.

Our emotional state is determined by our biology. And believe it or not, others can tell what’s going on inside bodies even if they aren’t equipped with x-ray vision. If you’re anxious, your heart will be racing. When your heart beats fast, that biological signal is actually radiated off the body.

The people that you are dealing with may not have an ECG machine to know for sure, but they will notice an inconsistency between what you’re saying and the biological signals your body is emitting.

Getting into the right emotional state means taking control of your biology. Only by getting down to the fundamental biological level can we genuinely get into the right emotional state.

We appear confident and assured, when we feel that way at a biological level. This is the ultimate level of ‘authentic leadership’. Inspiring confidence, an outcome so critical in successful business relationships, is much easier when we shift ourselves into a genuine state of inner confidence.

The science of emotion

This may all sound a bit ‘new age’ mumbo jumbo but it is actually scientifically measurable using standard cardiological and neuroradiological equipment.

If you have ever spent any time trying to facilitate a team debate or given a presentation to a crowd of people you will be very familiar with the fact that the energy in the room rises and falls. This energy is actually biology. It is the electrical energy, electromagnetic energy, chemical energy, pressure waves, sounds waves, heat waves and so on generated by every single biological system in the body.

All of this energy-in-motion, or e-motion massively influences our ability to think clearly, come up with answers to commercial questions and understand other people’s point of view. So our emotional state completely changes our ability to think clearly and build high quality relationships.

Emotions are central to your business success

Far from emotions being something we factor out or ignore in business, they are actually central to our success. They are central to our success in relationships and our ability to be convincing, persuasive and project confidence.

With the right kind of developmentally focused coaching it is possible to embody any emotional state on demand to suit the situation. This is not acting or ‘fake it until you make it’. This is actually highly developed emotional control and sensitivity.

You are not pretending to be confident, you actually are confident. It is the ultimate authenticity and can step change your personal performance, your ability to lead, the effectiveness of your team and your organisational results.

About the author

This guide has been written for ByteStart by Dr Alan Watkins, author of the new book, 4D Leadership, published by Kogan Page.

More on leading and growing your business

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