Relationships aren’t transactional, but in business, it’s easy to fixate on the numbers, the deals, and the deadlines. However, when you prioritise building and nurturing meaningful relationships with customers, colleagues, partners, and other stakeholders, youcan unlock a more powerful path to success. Along the way, you’ll also find greater personal and professional happiness and fulfilment.

Working with leading technology brands throughout my career, I’ve discovered that the best leaders have an intrinsic ability to cultivate strong and meaningful relationships with their peers. As I’ve sought to emulate those same incredible leaders, I’ve learned that there are a handful of traits and practices they use to foster enduring relationships and valued business connections. Here are a few of them: 

1. Prioritise trust

When you prioritise building trust and rapport with your customers, peers, and partners, you create relationships that will last your entire career – from one company to the next. These relationships are built on mutual understanding, shared experiences, empathy, and fun. As we all know, relationships don’t happen overnight. Investing in them with time and effort instills trust, which impacts your ability to meet goals. 

2. Seek relationships, not titles

In corporate life, the first inclination is often to focus on roles, titles, and job responsibilities. Over time, I’ve learned that the people I work with are far more important than any role or title. These relationships can make or break your success – and they are the driving force behind a meaningful work experience. By valuing and respecting team members for their unique contributions, leaders inspire loyalty, dedication, and enthusiasm, making everyone more invested in achieving your organisation’s goals.

3. Demonstrate empathy

When a leader says they have your back, they need to do more than pay lip service. True leaders show they care through actions. Demonstrating empathy means understanding and acknowledging the challenges faced by team members and actively offering support. By “walking the talk,” leaders create a positive and supportive work environment, which in turn helps generate higher employee satisfaction and productivity. 

4. Listen actively

Effective leaders actively listen to their team members, customers, and partners. They don’t just hear their words but take the time to understand the underlying concerns and perspectives. By incorporating feedback and insights into decision-making processes, leaders ensure everyone’s voice is heard and valued, leading to more well-rounded and successful projects.

5. Support the whole person

Recognising that employees are not just cogs in a machine, but rather individuals with personal lives and aspirations, is crucial for building meaningful relationships. Leaders who prioritise work-life balance create a healthier and happier work environment. This fosters creativity, innovation, and overall well-being, which ultimately improves personal productivity and business outcomes.

6. Embrace diversity in opinions and approaches

Effective leaders encourage diversity of thought because it drives progress and innovation. When you create an environment where everyone feels free to speak up, it leads to fresh ideas and more creative problem-solving. Incorporating new and different voices in the decision-making process promotes continuous learning and improvement.

Final thoughts

Throughout my professional journey, I’ve been fortunate to work with exceptional leaders who embody all these traits. They lead with empathy, actively listen to their teams, and recognise the value of work-life balance. They embrace diversity in opinions, cultivating an environment where everyone feels valued and their contributions are acknowledged. I’ve witnessed firsthand how genuine affinity for other people can make teams more motivated and cohesive and deliver outstanding results.

In my career, I’ve experienced the joys of extraordinary leaders and the challenges of suffering through leaders who can’t get past the transactional nature of business. I am grateful that I’ve learned the value of putting people first. When leaders embrace arelationship-driven mindset, it creates a ripple effect, impacting not only the success of their business, but also the lives of countless people in the most positive way. 

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