We live in a business world fueled by greed, self-aggrandizement, and artificial relationships that lack real depth, purpose and meaning. For example, a company’s good intentions to build momentum through partnership and mutuality is met with an act of deceit when the other party attempts to get the most out of them without any desire to contribute and add value to the relationship.
One-sided relationships appear to be the sign of the times. More than ever, I’ve seen companies and their leaders that are in search of the intellectual capital and know-how they lack but need to compete – yet they implement unethical practices that further widen opportunity gaps, disrupt growth and perpetuate the lack of trust that continues to reverberate in business.
Building mutually beneficial business relationships is more difficult than people think. It’s not just about whether you can trust someone anymore, it’s whether you can expect the other side to add substantive value.
For example, I was recently asked by a client to help one of their external partners, a leader from a highly reputable organization. During our call, the leader kept asking me questions, requesting proprietary information and several other times crossing the line with the types of questions and requests that were being made. Never during the call did this person ask, what can I do for you? It was all about this leader’s needs.
This experience revealed that the leader 1) didn’t value the relationship with my client enough, 2) lacked professionalism and common courtesy, and 3) didn’t have any real substance or possess any real knowledge or wisdom. It was clear that the leader was on a desperate treasure hunt to find answers.
This leader didn’t care about building a relationship – but rather was only focused on his own agenda. His selfish actions reflected an attitude that made me begin to question the integrity of the organization and brand he represented. If this leader’s CEO would have heard the call, I can assure you this person would have lost his job. Without reciprocity, it’s a zero-sum game. Creating and sustaining momentum is impossible.
These days, leaders are beginning to expect more from their employees, clients and partnerships – without any reciprocity. But you cannot lead alone. Leadership requires relationships that add mutual value. The moment a leader takes the relationship for granted – there is no relationship.
Unfortunately, leaders try to hold onto business relationships for the sake of having a connection to a particular company or brand – only to learn in the long run that the relationship was not worth the time and frustration. More than ever, leaders must know how to anticipate the unexpected to most effectively evaluate business relationships (here are six ways).
To avoid falling into the traps of a business relationship not worth having – here are five signs that your relationship lacks reciprocity and is headed in the wrong direction:
1. There is Always an Excuse (Feels Threatened)
1. There is Always an Excuse (Feels Threatened)
You know that your business relationship lacks reciprocity when you feel forced to do all the work because there is always an excuse on the other end.When excuses begin to constantly prevail, this is a sign that your business relationship is becoming one-sided and the other side is feeling threatened and uncomfortable, territorial and distant.
Rather than inflict more frustration and damage, put the relationship to the test. Demand more from your business relationship and if performance does not improve and the attitude still lingers – do yourself a favor and call it quits. If you are in a relationship that doesn’t value you enough, get out before it’s too late.
2. Never Takes Ownership (Lacks Marketplace Relevancy)
When both sides don’t take ownership for the mutual benefit of the relationship – it’s time to reevaluate it. How many times have you been in a business relationship where everyone is equally excited and then it begins to wane? More often than not, these are the relationships where one of the parties is beginning to lose marketplace relevancy and their impact is fading. The template they’ve been using for years to drive growth is no longer producing results. When they can no longer keep up with marketplace needs, reciprocity becomes difficult and eventually the relationship ends.
It’s difficult to sustain a business relationship when you are the only one that is able to take ownership and remain relevant because your team and brand overshadows the strength and capabilities of the other.
3. Limited Capabilities to Seize the Opportunity (Lacks Subject Matter Expertise)
A lot of business relationships are created from an impressionable encounter and/or introduction. But over time you find that reciprocity becomes difficult because the people that are responsible to manage the relationship have limited capabilities. For example, the leaders at the top of the organization may seem the most impressive. They say the right things and make lots of promises about what their contributions to the relationship can bring. But the reality is that those who are responsible to do the heavy lifting – to give the relationship life – may have average competency levels at best.
When your capabilities greatly exceed those of the company you have forged a business relationship with, you are headed down a slippery slope – where opportunities can’t be seized together. Keep your business relationships on their toes, challenge their commitment and notice if they are expecting you to make all of the sizeable investments in time, money and resources. Also, be mindful of whose subject matter expertise is making the real difference towards driving outcomes. If you are the only one sharing, it’s time to end the relationship before circumstances force your hand.
4. Doesn’t Contribute in Meaningful Ways (Lacks Desire to Collaborate)
Successful relationships are the byproduct of each party sharing the harvest of one another’s best practices, knowledge and wisdom. Relationships can’t build momentum when one of the parties lacks the desire to collaborate and discover new ways to win together. Those who consistently fail to reciprocate are the leeches. This is the type of individual that steals and/or takes the credit for the other’s ideas and strategies. They lack the courage and vulnerability to admit they don’t have the answers and instead are in search of manipulating others to share the harvest (i.e., intellectual capital/know-how) without wanting to do the same. These types of leaders do not have your best interests at heart; they only care about their own agendas. They are not willing to compromise to make the relationship mutually beneficial.
When business relationships lose sight of the mission (centered on reciprocation) – and there is not enough balanced strategic focus between the objective and the outcome – this is a sign that the relationship can’t sustain itself over time. It’s best to respectfully break free and move in a new direction.
5. Are Not Grateful (Lack Appreciation)
Oftentimes, business relationships grow complacent to the point where one of the parties begins to take the other for granted. When you or the other side of the relationship begins to lose appreciation for what the other is trying to accomplish for the betterment of a healthier whole – respect quickly begins to fade.
If you can’t find respect in a business relationship, you will never create and sustain momentum together. When respect reverberates throughout a relationship, it multiples the impact of the relationship. Without respect, trust is lost, complacency rises and reciprocity fades. If you ever detect that you are losing respect from others, course correct and part amicably before tensions rise and problems escalate.
Real business relationships produce positive results for both parties for one core reason: reciprocity. Without reciprocity, there is no relationship. When you stop having each other’s backs and lack the desire to give more than receive, the relationship can quickly go awry. Most notably, you have to care a lot and trust the people you work with in the relationship to cultivate an environment of innovation and initiative.
In the end, success comes most to those who are surrounded by people who want their success to continue, and that includes your business relationships. Nurture those relationships founded on the trust and mutual respect that comes from having each other’s best interests at heart. But also know when to let go of a relationship that’s all about the other’s agenda, where things are always being asked from you but never for you, and where the more you give the more they try to take.
Westchester Networking for Professionals (WNFP) is an organization consisting of professionals and entrepreneurs which focuses on the success of our Members. We help our Members establish lasting relationships and generate new business opportunities towards the growth of their business.
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