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.
Unfortunately, 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.
I found myself in such a situation recently when I was 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 other leader’s needs.
This experience revealed three things about the leader:
1. he didn’t value the relationship with my client enough;
2. he lacked professionalism and common courtesy; and
3. he didn’t have any real substance or possess any real knowledge or wisdom.
In fact, it was clear that the leader was on a desperate treasure hunt to find answers.
Without reciprocity, it’s a zero-sum game. Creating and sustaining momentum is impossible. Yet this leader didn’t care about building a relationship – only about 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 for two reasons in particular that must be avoided in our efforts to build mutually rewarding business relationships:
Failure to collaborate and contribute in meaningful ways
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 hard work. 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 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.
Lack of appreciation and gratefulness.
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.
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.
Image Credit: Thomas Barwick | Getty Images
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