How to Take Care of Your Greatest Resource in Business

No business operates in a vacuum. It requires the input, support, and services of other parties, including customers, vendors, and, of course, employees. Consider for a moment, the person with whom you have the best working relationship. It may be a colleague you’ve dubbed your “partner” or “work spouse.” Alternatively, it may be a reliable vendor that you always turn to. When you work together, you get into a flow and a rhythm where strengths are enhanced, and differences respected.

However, what about relationships where this type of connection and trust is lacking? What does it cost you in productivity, time, opportunities, and growth? Moreover, what can you do about it?Collaboration and synergy require a culture of trustInvest in your greatest resource in business—relationships. And build a thriving organizational culture to support that resource.

Why Are Relationships Your Greatest Resource?

“The business of business is relationships; the business of life is human connection.” ~Robin S. Sharma

Developing a successful business transcends branding, marketing, and a good product. Now more than ever, people want to know they can trust you. People select and are loyal to companies that are credible and personable, putting the relationship first. A recent example is how an employee at Universal Orlando Resort calmed an autistic boy. What does this have to do with business? The actions of this employee made national news and catapulted the resort with positive media. Why? Because people long for caring connection, even in the most dramatic circumstances.

All of us yearn to feel connected, be understood, and respected. You see, from infancy, our brains are hard-wired for relationships and connection.

Successful business requires building honest and connected relationships. The adage, “it's not what you know, but whom you know," only speaks to a part of what catapults businesses to profitability and renown. It is not merely who you know, but how healthy your relationships are.

Nurturing a healthy business is like growing a Chinese Bamboo treeHealthy relationships will take time to cultivate, similar to a Chinese Bamboo tree. This unique tree requires continual nurturing—water, fertile soil, and sun. However, after a year, there are no visible signs of growth. For three more years, you nourish the little tree, but still no substantial growth. Patience may wear thin, and you wonder whether it will ever grow, but you continue to nurture it. Finally, in the fifth year, the tree shoots up 80 feet in less than two months! Such tremendous growth! Business relationships are much the same.

For example, I once did contract work for an agency. We had a great working relationship; they were open and collaborative, and ultimately, the partnership was a great success. I was happy to recommend their agency to many other businesses and other contractors because of their helpful, creative, and highly professional services. Over several years, this relationship ultimately yielded financial and visibility gains for both of us.

Conversely, a colleague of mine had quite the opposite experience with a different client. They were disrespectful of him or their contract terms. They treated him as a means to an end (profit), not a valued partner. They wouldn’t do their part to nourish the relationship. It wasn’t long until he parted ways with them. My friend never considered recommending their services and was outspoken in giving negative commentaries on the company to anyone who would listen. This client ultimately went out of business because of their poor service and their inability to develop effective relationships.

Relationships impact growth and your bottom line. So how do you create and foster an environment where healthy relationships flourish?

Be Self-Aware: Effective Relationships Start with YOU

High standards are necessary to succeed in business. However, many don’t realize that at the core of a thriving business are self-aware and inspiring leaders who know how to take care of themselves and relate intelligently with others.

For instance, is it okay to be upset with the quality of the work of an employee or displeased with the slow delivery time of a vendor? Absolutely! Is it all right to take out your anger and frustration on those people? Nope. The single most crucial ingredient of your responses is how YOU are feeling internally. Every interaction in your day has value, so being mindful of how your words and actions can move the dial in a positive or negative direction for you and your business.

Self-awareness and self-care are vital keys to reciprocal, healthy relationships, and ultimately, business success. When we fail to take responsibility to meet our needs and ignore self-care, our neglect affects our relationships because we’re working from a position of survival. Not good for you; not good for relationships; not good for business.

If you’d like to take a quick self-inventory, get curious and answer the following questions.

Ask yourself:

  • What self-care do I need regularly to be at my best?
  • Am I showing up for myself and making my needs a priority?
  • How do I sound and act when my needs are met versus when they aren’t being met?
  • What are my highest values? Am I living them authentically? If not, what is competing with them?
  • Is a lack of self-care or ineffectual boundaries affecting the quality of my relationships at work and home?

As you can see, it’s essential to recognize how you feel, understand your values, and build a work schedule and lifestyle that supports your well-being. Take care of the relationship with yourself!

Related reading: "Why Self-Care Matters for Both Employers and Employees"
 

Make Communication the Bridge to Thriving Relationships

Just like self-awareness discussed above, creating real connections, collaboration, and meaningful dialogue with others can also be put on the back burner as we strive to produce, meet deadlines, and “beat” our competitors. In our fast-paced, ever-changing business world, it’s easy to react and build a cultural pattern of “putting out fires.” When we do, we let the reptilian brain hijack the higher mind of a company, and then leaders, employees, and teams default to whatever behavior is required to feel secure. The end result is a culture that no one wants to be a part of.

Why would we sabotage our company and its culture when we intellectually know that it’s not in the best interest of our company? A quick study on the brain will help.
Safety is the first responsibility of the brain

Communication and the Brain

We all have three parts of the brain that work together to dictate our thoughts, actions, and responses—including communication.

  • Reptilian brain (brain stem) urges us to seek safety.
  • Limbic brain (the emotional brain) leads us to social bonding and connection.
  • Prefrontal cortex (the rational mind) motivates us to solve problems, improve our situation, and maintain relationships through understanding and empathy.

Recalling the story of my colleague above, from which brain do you think his client (who went out of business) was acting? Most likely the brain stem. Focusing on outcomes and responding with knee-jerk reactions often occurs during times of stress, when the reptilian brain puts the survival response front and center. This makes it difficult to focus on appropriate and purposeful communication. Think of it this way: if your office is on fire and the flames are spreading rapidly, you’re not thinking about the meeting agenda you need to plan or the next big launch, are you?

To effectively address an employee’s or client’s behavior, you need to understand what part of the brain a person is acting from and how to create safety for the greatest creativity, productivity, and execution. Not recognizing these roots of behavior in yourself and others can derail team dynamics in companies and ultimately thwart relationships with customers.

EXAMPLE  I once heard of an employee who was smart and talented, and yet, there was a period in which he missed reasonable deadlines and made many small mistakes that were adding up. Their clients began to notice, putting the quality of their work in question and working relationships in jeopardy. His boss knew the employee had the skills to produce fantastic work, so what was going on? After several one-on-one meetings, the employee revealed he had been recently diagnosed with ADHD and was ashamed that his brain was “different.” His strong emotion caused him to wrestle even further to remain attentive to his work. He knew he was making mistakes but was afraid to ask for the adjustments to his work environment. (His survival brain was acting.) This employee struggled with the open office layout and needed a more private working space to avoid distractions for better focus. (Focus is a higher brain ability.) He worried that his boss and fellow employees might think less of him due to his diagnosis.

Since the brain seeks connection but also needs safety to cultivate trust and confidence in oneself and a team, below are key actions to create bridges in communication while strengthening relationships and teams.

KEYS TO BUILDING EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION

Create a Culture of Openness
Openness and transparency are developed by providing a nonjudgmental environment. An open-minded culture encourages people to be creative and strive for excellence; mistakes are handled with responsiveness and accountability that supports growth. Strive to build a culture of encouragement, constructive feedback, and trust. Group dynamics are determined by the level of trust, so respect is the bedrock of good communication.

Be Mindful of the Filters of Past Conditioning
Experiences throughout life and past work experiences will automatically frame and pre-determine dispositions that dictate our responses to, and interpretations of, events. Everyone holds blinders subconsciously from past conditioning factors and beliefs formed through experiences. Work relationships and others’ actions are viewed through these filters.

Recognizing these tendencies, be patient. Seek to understand where a person is coming from and determine what is most important to each team member and employee. Find out what fuels their behavior and decisions. For example, in the situation above of the employee diagnosed with ADHD, he believed that others would think less of him. His reaction was influenced by his fear, but once understood, the leader could better support the employee and his performance dramatically improved.
No matter the job site, effective listening is a critical skill

Model and Encourage Effective Listening: Listening is not a passive sport; it is an active part of communication. Many communication breakdowns can be prevented by being present and emptying your mind before speaking with someone. Practice attentive and active listening to replace communication misfires.

Authentic, engaged listening includes:

  • Friendly eye contact with the speaker when appropriate.
  • Focused attention, putting aside other priorities pulling on you.
  • Intently listening without interrupting or judging.
  • Asking clarifying questions to avoid misunderstandings.
  • Gestures showing interest and engagement, i.e., lean in, nod your head, and give responses that match the tone of the conversation.
  • Tell the person when it’s not a good time for you to talk and reschedule another time.

Take care of work relationships by making effective communication a natural part of your culture. The end result is highly efficient and effective teams, a welcoming culture, with happy customers and higher profits.

Related Reading: Good Communication Is Vital for a Successful Business

Thriving relationships equal thriving teams

Foster Healthy Relationships and Positive Team Dynamics

Strong relationships and positive team dynamics pay big dividends. However, they require a foundation built on awareness (including self-awareness) and the ability to understand others’ perspective and emotional responses (empathy).

Now, you may be asking, “Okay, but what do I need to do to grow this level of awareness and empathy in my workplace?”

Focus on the following:

  • Emotional Intelligence (EQ): This is a person’s awareness of his/her own emotions and the ability to use that awareness in life and work situations; to manage and express emotions effectively while also honoring the perspective and experiences of other people.
    • Why It Works: As stated earlier, we can’t be present to someone else unless we’re aware of ourselves. Self-awareness is the lynchpin to awareness of others. Understanding and empathizing with another's situation creates tremendous unity and improves communication remarkably.

  • Positivity and Encouragement: Positivity fosters encouragement and vice versa. For encouragement to be effective, however, the feedback must have certain ingredients to be effective.
    • Why It Works: Specific feedback allows a person to know exactly what is helpful and effective or unhelpful and ineffective. With thoughtful input, a person can increase the positive behavior and better self-correct any nonproductive behavior.

      Sincere and constructive feedback helps build confidence, honesty, and positivity individually and collectively. It’s infectious and boosts morale, productivity, and teambuilding. This doesn’t mean you need to be a cheerleader who never acknowledges challenges, but by focusing on what’s working instead of complaining, the culture is more energizing and uplifting. And the vitality of team celebration will be directly proportionate to how well people feel connected and valued.
Celebration of a team is proportionate to how well people feel connected and valued

  • Rally Around Core Values: Having clear company values and unified goals bring a team together for a common purpose. They strengthen and galvanize teams to do their best work, helping to provide a common language and vision that keeps work aligned with a company’s mission.
    • Why It Works: As summarized succinctly in Forbes, staying true to a mission that’s supported by values promotes trust and collaboration. People feel safe, purposeful, and free to learn and take risks.

  • Create a Sense of Security: To create a sense of security is to increase trust in a business relationship. To accomplish this feat, one must presume innocence, seek to understand, empathize, and set compassionate but firm boundaries.
    • Why It Works: Remember, our reptilian brains control our survival instincts and override the logical brain. Safety and trust cultivate an environment where people can be their best yet also let down their guard, creating more openness and creativity.


The quality of your life is determined by the quality of your relationships. The quality of your business is no different.” 
~Harvey Mackay

Remember the lesson of the Bamboo tree: patience and consistent actions to support your greatest resource of relationships will build a strong foundation for a successful business.

To cultivate a thriving culture and invest in customized support and training for your company, contact Heartmanity for Business

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Jennifer A. Williams / Heartmanity for BusinessJennifer A. Williams / Heartmanity for Business
As an Executive Coach and Relationship Strategist, Jennifer’s specialties are empowering leaders, team building, and teaching emotional intelligence. Her emphasis is on utilizing brain science to short-cut change and create personal and organizational transformation. For over two decades, Jennifer has worked with entrepreneurs and businesses to remove the obstacles to authentic communication, collaboration, and teamwork. Jennifer also acts as a Human Resources independent consultant in larger companies and trains Customer Service teams in the art of empathy and handling difficult conversations. Her passionate mission is to create thriving relationships at work and home.

Posted in Business and Leadership