What is it and how does it work?
I was listening to an interview, and the term relationship capital came up. It was explained as the opportunities that present themselves in the relationship without ulterior motives attached to the relationship,
It is the network that helps you navigate the corporate culture, understand your shortcomings, and pushes for your success. Ultimately these relationships lead to a goal of some kind, for example wealth, prosperity or success.
For me, relationship capital means building solid relationships that has led to big results. I have worked with my colleague friends on contentious issues and come out with great solutions that make the organization look good.
I remember going into an interview and being asked about how I managed stakeholders and built relationships. I was floored, not because I couldn’t answer the question, but because someone was asking it. To me it seemed like something you learned when you were growing up-like how do you make friends and keep them? I mentioned simple things like speaking face to face, or by phone, developing personal connections and following up with them after meetings if they didn’t attend, etc. The interviewers found these strategies great, they nodded and seemed to get excited. I realized at that point that building and nurturing relationships was a skill, and maybe some people just don’t have it, or they have poor skills resulting in financial losses, damage to organizational image, or loss of trust. The road to building good relationship capital requires consistency of effort and character over time.
All of this to say that building relationships and nurturing them in work and in your personal life is not intuitive or natural to some people. There are lots of courses to learn how to build good relationships to prove it.
Do’s and don’ts of building a relationship
Stakeholders, clients, family, friends, require us to pay attention to the relationship. Building these relationships takes time and effort and if it is genuine then a strong bond can form. Relationships flourish when they:
- Involve mutual reciprocity or a mutual willingness to help and support one another
- Respect the time needed to build trust and the relationship
- Value integrity
Mistakes that people make in building relationships:
- Premature asks (asking before there is a relationship)
- Poor or no follow up
- Being a champion in a way that does not fit with the organization’s brand
What strategies help to build relationship capital?
- Build trust. People love this idea, but it comes with a catch-it requires action.For example, if you say you will follow up, do so, be accountable and reliable. Be honest and ethical and you will gain respect and build trust.
- Communicate. I believe that most problems that arise in relationships are because of miscommunication. Just the other day, I was speaking with a colleague friend, and we agreed to a plan of action. Somehow the message got mangled, and I got a call from her boss asking for more information. If he hadn’t called me, it would have resulted in a lot of unnecessary work with possibly incorrect information. Luckily, I have a great working relationship with both, and it was easily resolved. I can call on any of my colleague friends, because I have developed a relationship with them, and they will help me, and I will do the same for them. These relationships have paved the way for many successful initiatives.
- Set boundaries. Let people know what the goals are and what is at stake. Let them know what is and isn’t possible and the rest is negotiable
- Let others know if you suspect a problem is coming. Those in charge don’t like surprises about projects if they are accountable-it puts them in the hot seat. If you suspect something might become a huge issue, let others know about it, so that it can be addressed. This also builds up the trust bank, when they know that you are in control of the situation.
Building relationships out of difficult circumstances:
How does it work when clients are difficult or resistant to change? Meet stakeholders/clients who are resistant to change. This is hard to do because it can feel unpleasant, time consuming, and messy to come to a satisfactory solution. However, if it is managed well it can be really satisfying!
I have learned is to expect resistance and plan for it with any change. The following has worked for me when I have experienced resistance:
- Clearly identify the problem, I am trying to solve.
- Clearly state the goal.
- Provide foundational information to ensure that everyone has the same basic understanding and context about why this is important.
- Identify and get agreement on basic principles. These are the basis for how agreement on decisions can proceed. For example, a principle might be, “Safety is important.” When disagreement happens, go back to see how the suggestion aligns with the principles.
- Identify negotiables and non negotiables to find common ground.
- Listen to feedback and concerns. This provides valuable information on obstacles to implementing your plan.
- Explain the decision. People will want to know what the decision is based on, and whether their feedback was considered. Not all feedback can be used, and it needs to be weighed carefully along with the overall goals, principles, etc. Honest discussions that are respectful work best in this situation.
- Have a respectful discussion, they should never be personal or aggressive. Rules of engagement may need to be used if discussions are contentious, heated or get out of control. Stop the discussion and remind people about appropriate behaviour and comments. If that doesn’t work, stop the discussion entirely and have it another time.
- Keep the lines of communication open.
Developing good relationships is a lifelong process that will enrich your personal and professional life.
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