Perhaps no two words matter more in business than these: relationships matter. The attitudes at the top of a company filter down — all the way to the customer.
“The loyalty your frontline folks have with customers is predictive of the loyalty those frontline folks have with their managers and that those managers have with their regional managers all the way back to headquarters and your own executive team,” says Keith Ferrazzi. “How you curate the relationships across your teams expands out to sales and ultimately, the customer.”
In a webinar sponsored by Young Presidents’ Organization’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Network titled “Three Things You Aren’t Doing That Can Transform Your Business Relationships,” Ferrazzi shared effective ways business leaders can cultivate cultures of candor and accountability and, subsequently, drive innovation and collaboration. He is founder and CEO of Ferrazzi Greenlight and author of “The New York Times” best-sellers Never Eat Alone and Who’s Got Your Back.
1. Create Authentic Relationships
“Establish relationships with individuals, not positions,” Ferrazzi says. “Just because a position might be transitional doesn’t mean the relationship shouldn’t be treated the same way. Yesterday’s ambitious busboy could be tomorrow’s rock-star general manager, and your generosity, coaching, and mentorship will be remembered.”
While it is common business practice to “lead by example” it can often feel daunting, attempting to ascertain the most succinct way of expressing how you want your business culture to look. For example, to foster discussion rather than directives Ferrazzi suggests that leaders gather the teams together and open the dialogue.
“Open your staff meetings with everyone explaining what they admire you for and what they see as your cracks. Listen to the critical feedback, then offer one thing you’re going to go work on,” Ferrazzi says. “As a team leader, you have to model the behavior you want others to exhibit; if you want people to be vulnerable and open and candid with you, you need to show them that you are willing to be open, vulnerable, and candid.”
2. Address Conflict
Courting conflict is something most go out of their way to avoid; for Ferrazzi conflict avoidance is one of the most erosive elements of business success. To this end, staff meetings are the perfect place to unleash the interdependency of teams.
“At the staff meeting, have everyone pick one problem critical to their success and give them five minutes to lay it out on the table,” Ferrazzi says. “Then have the team pepper them with questions. Do a quick go-around with everyone suggesting resolutions.
By getting the teams to not be siloed inside the room, leaders are effectively teaching them to not be siloed outside the room, creating a community that knows how to communicate and collaborate.”
3. Lean On Your Team
YPO members understand the indelible strength generated by the relationships built in forum; Ferrazzi believes these same relationships should exist with, and among, employees.
“Just as you lean on your forum, find ways to lean on your team,” Ferrazzi says. “Every one of us has a glass ceiling stopping us from being truly successful — diagnosing and breaking those glass ceilings with and through the service of others in a team is critical.”
Taking a cue from business culture of the East where they put the personal before the professional, Ferrazzi urges business leaders to accelerate their relationships through good, old-fashioned storytelling.
“Take your team out to a long, slow dinner,” Ferrazzi says. “Share experiences about your past, about the things that have made you who you are today. This kind of candor has the ability to radically accelerate your relationships, creating lifelines and tribal bonds between people who won’t let each other fail.”