Professional success is important to me, as it is to most people who read my posts, but success in business and in life means different things to different people – and that is okay.
But one fact is universal: Real success, the kind that exists on multiple levels, is impossible without building great relationships.
Here are some observations I made of people this year whom I consider to be great relationship builders:
1. They take the hit.
Whatever the issue and regardless of who is actually at fault, some people step in and take the hit. They’re willing to accept the criticism or abuse because they know they can handle it–and they know that maybe, just maybe, the other person can’t.
Few acts are more selfless than taking the undeserved hit for your friend, your work accomplice or for the greater good of the mission.
2. Step in without being asked.
People who build extraordinary relationships pay close attention and recognize when others are struggling. Then they offer to help, they come up with ways to ignore your “No, I’m okay…” responses. They text you affirmations and show up when you just need to have someone by your side.
Not because they want to build a better relationship, although that is certainly the result, but simply because they care.
3. Know when to let their hair down and forget the social rules
People who build great relationships know when to have fun and when to be serious, when to be over the top and when to be invisible, and when to take charge and when to follow.
Great relationships are multifaceted and therefore require multifaceted people willing to adapt to the situation–and to the people in that situation.
I was so blessed this year to surround myself with friends who knew when to throw the formalities out the window and just release the frustrations, say the words that weren’t politically correct and just take charge of our social release.
4. Realize when they have acted poorly.
Most people apologize when their actions or words are called into question. Very few people apologize before they are asked to–or even before anyone notices they should.
Responsibility is a key building block of a great relationship. People who take the blame, who say they are sorry and explain why they are sorry, who don’t try to push any of the blame back on the other person–those are people everyone wants in their lives, because they instantly turn a mistake into a bump in the road rather than a permanent roadblock.
5. Give consistently, receive occasionally.
A great relationship is mutually beneficial. In business terms that means connecting with people who can be mentors, who can share information, who can help create other connections; in short, that means going into a relationship wanting something.
The person who builds great relationships doesn’t think about what she wants; she starts by thinking about what she can give. She sees giving as the best way to establish a real relationship and a lasting connection. She approaches building relationships as if it’s all about the other person and not about her, and in the process builds relationships with people who follow the same approach.
In time they make real connections. And in time they make real friends.
6. Value the message by always valuing the messenger.
When someone speaks from a position of power or authority or fame it’s tempting to place greater emphasis on their input, advice, and ideas.
That’s unfortunate. Smart people and great relationship builders strip away the framing that comes with the source–whether positive or negative–and considers the information, advice, or idea based on its merits.
People who build great relationships never automatically discount the message simply because they discount the messenger.
They know good people are good people, regardless of their perceived “status.” And that is admirable.
7. Start small… and are happy to stay small.
My close friend tells me that “people just tell you stuff” all the time.
Normally, I am not very good at small talk, but I love to know any service providers name, and rarely interact with any person more than twice without engaging in some form of personal interaction. For example, when I enter the Chesapeake Arena each night to do my job at the table, I pass by Manny who is a security person keeping people in their seats. Manny gives me a hug and great big smile every time I walk by.
That’s as far as our relationship is likely to go and that’s okay. For a couple of minutes we transcend the customer/employee relationship and become two people brightening each other’s day.
And that’s enough, because every relationship, however minor and possibly fleeting, has value.
People who build great relationships treat every one of their relationships that way. I can strive to do better at this every day.