Our Relationship Quality Scale

March 2017
By Andrea Lipton, Director IP Development & Learning Strategy

Bringing Focus and Objectivity to Relationship-Building

Defining relationships is a tricky business, even under the best circumstances. Is the relationship romantic? Just friends? Making those distinctions involves qualification and, whether we want to admit it or not, some level of quantification. Most agree that family relationships are more important than those with co-workers or clients, but if that priority is not aligned with a person’s behavior, those family relationships can suffer.

The same is true in business relationships. As workflows become more digitized, and the quality of products and services more standardized, relationships are sometimes the only way to differentiate your company’s offering. While this is widely recognized, organizations still often leave the care and maintenance of those critical relationships to chance. The stronger and more collaborative your relationships are, both internally and externally, the deeper the trust and exchange of knowledge and information becomes. The depth of that exchange is what creates unmatchable differentiation in the marketplace.

At Ferrazzi Greenlight, we work with clients to help them distinguish their most important business relationships, and we coach them on how to make those relationships stronger. One of the essential tools we use to introduce a level of objectivity and clarity to relationship-building is our Relationship Quality (RQ) Scale, which measures the depth of each important professional relationship and provides a trajectory for making it more valuable to both parties.

One of the best ways to create and maintain strong relationships is, in Keith’s words, “to lead with generosity.” This does not mean flowers or gifts. While they may be nice to receive, they do not affect the other person’s success the way a well-timed introduction or relevant white paper could. Once you know what is important to your contacts and where they fall on the RQ Scale, you can reach out in ways that are both meaningful and appropriately specific, so that your business contact knows you were thinking explicitly about his or her success.

As workflows become more digitized, and the quality of products and services more standardized, relationships are sometimes the only way to differentiate your company's offering.

Relationship Quality (RQ) Scale

Every relationship may be unique, but when viewed from a distance, patterns emerge. Our seven-point RQ Scale assists in identifying those patterns by helping you cluster and rank your relationships. This ranking simplifies the process of leading with generosity, as it encourages viewing the relationship from the other person’s perspective. For example, you would not want to offer unsolicited advice to someone you have never met, no matter how much you think it could help them. A strained relationship needs special care and attention. Using the RQ Scale helps map out where you stand in your key business relationships (if you have a standing yet at all) and how you can best provide the needed attention to take particular relationships to the next level.

Our RQ Scale (at right) is a simple numeric scale that goes from a -1 (strained) to 5 (lifeline). By assigning a number to each relationship, how you can lead with generosity becomes clearer.

How to Lead with Generosity Along the Relationship Quality Scale

RQ0 can be difficult because you’re attempting to be generous with someone you do not know. You can start “warming the cold call” by researching whether you have people, interests, and/or experiences in common. It always helps to acknowledge the person’s expertise, experience, reputation, and even ego, by expressing admiration or appreciation. You need not fear coming off as “over eager” or “smarmy,” as long as what you are communicating is genuine. Remember to find something about this person to care about.

At RQ0, it is important that you show the other person how he or she will benefit from a relationship with you. When Keith first met Hillary Clinton, he did not immediately seek an audience with her; instead, he found a way to be generous with her assistant, by always offering to be of service whenever Secretary Clinton came to Southern California. In the end, he even helped this assistant with her honeymoon planning! By being of service to Mrs. Clinton’s team, he became a trusted partner to them.

RQ1 or 2 actually affords you the opportunity to reach out and humbly ask how you can be of service. Acknowledge that you do not know the other person well enough to figure out how to be of service, but propose that you are sure you would have ideas on how to help, if only you knew more about their role or interests.

Be curious. Ask questions directly and find out from them how you can be of service. Do not give into your fear of rejection. Most people will be open to and appreciative of the gesture, as long as they match the relationship level. By RQ2, you can start making small, unobtrusive gestures that signal an understanding of just

what this person needs and how you can help him or her succeed. For example, through our engagements, Keith has become well- acquainted with what the CIO role entails and what would be beneficial, so he can ping new contacts to offer our Relationships Are the New Operating System document to share our perspective on the skills they will need to lead in a changing IT landscape.

By RQ3 you have already reached a level of familiarity. You have done something to help this person, so you can express appreciation for the opportunity to be of service and inquire how to either expand the ways in which you can help, or deepen the existing ways you are already of service.

As the relationship gets stronger, do not forget to express your genuine appreciation for the opportunity to be of service. Recognize the trust involved and show appreciation for the opportunity to share your own talents.

RQ4 signifies a mutually beneficial relationship, so both you and your RQ4 feel open to sharing experience and knowledge when and where it will clearly help. For example, you may want to ask this person for coaching on how to approach a new decision-maker at the company, especially when you are trying to sell more broadly and deeply into that organization.

Acknowledge that his person has been of service to you. Giving an authentic shout-out when you have an RQ4 is an awesome thing. Whether it is highlighting a co-worker’s talent and contribution at a staff meeting or expressing gratitude toward a customer on how seamlessly they partner with you, taking a moment to genuinely show that appreciation will strengthen already deepening bonds.

RQ5 is the highest level of quality. You are each other’s advocates. Continue to celebrate and communicate your appreciation, and openly explore ways to continue supporting each other’s success.

Leading with generosity is the easiest, and most fun, at RQ5. You already know each other quite well; you know what matters to this person professionally—and personally as well. You are free to ask what they need from you, and you are less concerned about being a burden to them. Look for opportunities to advocate for this person without having to ask, or by forwarding a meme when they are sad, knowing it will make them laugh.

RQ-1 poses the most difficult outreach challenge, since there is an existing issue in the relationship that you need to overcome. Generosity, especially with empathy and understanding, is critical to healing the rift. It is important to be candid and acknowledge your past behavior and the impact it had on the person. Something as simple as a sincere and timely apology for, say, being late and leaving the other person waiting, can go a long way to healing a strained relationship. By acknowledging your mistake, you also let the other person know that you value their time as much as your own. This is especially important if you are in a position of power relative to this person. Be prepared to listen. Then share why you are changing your behavior and what you plan to do differently.

If this is an internal relationship and you are the manager, offer several ways you could change, and give the other person some choice in the matter. For example, if you did not follow up on a great idea from your executive assistant, and the window of opportunity closed, having a quick meeting where you apologize and hash out a follow-up process that allows the other person some agency in the resolution goes a long way toward putting the relationship back on track.

If you are a direct report, or the relationship is with a customer, ask permission to try harder. Let the other person know that you regret not considering their feelings or opinions and promise to do better in the future. Understand that rebuilding trust will take time and effort, so do your best to act with consistent integrity, but accept that it is not entirely in your hands. Patience is an important component of being generous in a strained relationship.

Of course, these are just launching points to incorporating an RQ scale into your organization’s culture. Each relationship is unique and requires its own approach, but being of service, whether you are asked or not, is the surest way to increase the depth of what you share. What matters most is that you are reaching out and being of service thoughtfully, authentically, and with mutual success as your goal. Regardless of where a particular relationships falls on the scale, there is always the opportunity to strengthen it by having the other person’s best interests at heart.

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