We recently completed a significant engagement with a well-known global B2B player (we are still celebrating the results the client is enjoying, given the impact our research had on how they could drive to sustainable behavior change and accretive business outcomes). In the process of working with one of the teams, I was coaching a gentleman who had some challenges with an executive in a different part of the organization. Silos, eh, who’d have them?! As he told me about how his success was tied to his interactions with the other person in a different team, I could tell from his crackly voice that he was upset about where things had got to. I asked him what had transpired and he explained that a misunderstanding and poor interpretation of some comments by email had run their long working relationship off track, and it had continued to escalate over time with each of them assuming ill intent when they interacted.
As I talked him through a piece of our research on the Relationship Action Plan (RAP), he listened intently and then laughed. I sensed a moment of inspiration and so I asked him what he was thinking. He said, “Over the last 6 months, I have prioritized being right over being successful, and it has only harmed me”. And he was right. Human beings are prone to thinking irrationally, often politically and emotionally, and this can significantly impact what they do as much as the way they do things. For this executive, he had avoided the person who could have helped him be successful, all because of pride, ego, and fear, and in the process, he hurt himself first and foremost.
I walked him through the RAP; the intentional and conscious acts of proactively working to advance relationships with the people most important to achieving your goals. At the core of every relationship is generosity: reaching out to other people to be of service because generosity builds relationship strength quickly. Having identified who is critical to your success, you prioritize these relationships so that you put the most outreach effort toward the most important individuals. For each person that you need to outreach to, define clearly what you can do for them, either personally or professionally. Beyond that, you look to deliver the rich and robust outreach, that is generous and connected in a deep and authentic way. After explaining the full RAP algorithm, his relief was palpable. Then we talked through how he could recover the situation, and I offered advice on how to broach the conversation with the executive, as well as be prepared for any response. Armed with our research-based toolkit, he made a plan to speak with the executive.
I caught up with him last month and I asked him how things had gone since we worked together on the RAP. He smiled broadly, and explained, “I don’t know why I didn’t do something about this earlier; I have literally sabotaged my own career by holding back and avoiding this person”. And then he continued, “But there’s more,” and I sat with baited breath as he leaned in and said, “I hadn’t told you I was going to do this but over the weekend I thought about how I could apply the same thinking to my personal life, and specifically, to my relationship with my son. By putting aside what had gone before, and by taking the first steps to fixing a problem that I didn’t even see as my own, it’s like we have removed baggage that has held us back for years. You haven’t just helped me professionally, but you have helped me personally, too.”
This time of year is a good time for people to reflect on where they are, why they are where they are, and what they are going to do to get where they want to be. That said, any day is the right day to focus on doing things intentionally. Given that we are increasingly reliant on others to be successful in our own roles, I’m pretty sure that most people could repair, deepen or build a new relationship with someone who holds the key to making them successful. Don’t let ego, pride or fear get in the way of you doing that; building – or fixing – key relationships that drive you to success. You are only hurting yourself, and you’re missing out on a world of opportunity. And if you want to talk about how our high-return practices – like the Relationship Action Plan – can help you, your team, and your organization, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’re here to be of service to you, and our partnership is simple – we succeed when you succeed.