Anybody who owns a business got there because they believed in something strongly and set out to accomplish it. As your business grows into something bigger than a one-person operation, it’s critical to own your role as a leader. It’s more than simply giving orders to the people who are engaged in your business and helping you provide a service or product. There’s a big difference between a leader and somebody who is just bossy.
What is relationship management?
Relationship management is the fourth and final domain of emotional intelligence, which I covered in April’s blog (Improve Your Emotional Intelligence To Boost Your Bottom Line). For the record, I don’t like the term “relationship management” because working with people is not about managing them. It’s about leading them. We lead people and we manage processes. Regardless, relationships are a very important component of emotional intelligence.
With strong relationship management skills, you’ll create a culture of success by building a high-functioning, committed team of people who understand the mission of your business and their role in bringing the vision to life. You’ll influence and motivate them to see why they need to contribute at their highest level to what you're trying to accomplish. You’ll inspire your team and get the best from them.
Relationship management makes all the difference
I recently had the opportunity to bring someone on board to lead a strategic planning team. I was familiar with her previous work and the energy and passion she brought to her role. She always demonstrated a strong desire to capture what other people were doing and fold it into the bigger picture. Her strengths and experiences were exactly what we needed. I reached out to her, invited her into the vision, and helped her see what she could contribute to this team.
I coached her through the first few meetings to bring her up to speed. And then, quite frankly, I got out of the way and watched her soar. It was awesome to see her relationship management skills in action and their immediate benefit.
- Influence. She came in with an attitude to get things done without being offensive. She's bringing people into the process, plugging them in, and making sure they have what they need to work together towards the goal. She is influencing the process so that the team members can make so much more progress.
- Coaching and Mentoring. She’s always thinking about what her team members need and how she can empower them. She makes sure they see where their capabilities and capacities are important in accomplishing the goal.
- Conflict Management. She brings differences in how people perceive things and think the work should be done to the surface. Because if you don't surface those things, you’ll have trouble. She recognizes the value of developing the best option out of everybody's experiences and thoughts.
- Teamwork. She trusts her team and her team trusts her to take them where they need to go, despite previous struggles to gain traction under other leadership. She calls them into the shared vision and helps them accomplish it together.
Tips for developing your relationship management skills
Being a good leader requires you to be good at relationships. You’ll need to work on yourself and tap into your soft skills.
- Recognize that the basis of relationship skills is self-awareness. That means you must do the work to really have self-awareness. Who are you? What do you bring to the table? What are your strengths and where do you need to focus your time and energy? Coaching can help you answer these questions objectively and build self-awareness.
- Lean into the hard stuff. The different components of relationship management—influence, coaching and mentoring, conflict management, and teamwork—all require setting yourself aside for the good of the other and the good of the vision and mission. Once you know who you are and what you bring to the table, don’t insert yourself in the places where you struggle.
- Trust your team to do the work. Invite your team members into the right role and then equip them to do their best work. Do they need to have specific tools? Do they need additional training? Equip, empower, and release them to do what they do best. Then get out of the way because they're going to do much better than you are in that area!
Improving your relationship management skills aligns closely with my core message of leaning into your energizers. Knowing your energizers, and where you struggle, is all about self-awareness. You’ll lead more effectively as a small business owner and your team members will thrive when you’re all in the space where you are most motivated to make the biggest contribution. It’s a virtuous circle as you lead out of your energizers and tap into everybody else’s energizers. You can’t help but move towards the mission and vision of your business.
If you haven’t already downloaded my Return on Energy (ROE) Checklist , now is the time to do it. You’ll take an important step towards better self-awareness, which is the foundation for improving these relational skills. If you have completed the checklist, are you spending more time in your energizers than the first time around? Take another look to see how you’ve progressed!