Over the years, I have worked with quite a few detail people. These employees are great with systems, operations, and "back room" functions; functions that are essential to every business, but require a certain personality type to complete. While these employees excel with crossing every "t" and dotting every "I", however, they often struggle with relational skills such as sales and communication. They struggle to understand the importance of building relationships in business.
I should know. I am a detail person. For example, I will often get lost in a spreadsheet or report as a preference over connecting with those around me. I prefer to eat alone at lunch, work by myself, and often find that I will avoid human interactions all together - if I am not intentional. This is partly due to being an introvert, but it also has to do with my detailed personality. My tendency is to focus on details or the bottom line over building relationships with other people. I often forget the importance of building relationships in business.
I was recently talking with a friend who is also detail-oriented and has now found herself in a senior management role. We were discussing the importance of dealing with people, even when it isn't the strength of our personalities. We both agreed that working strategically with people, or building relational equity, had been major factors in the advancement of our careers. And this is true with any leader; relational equity is an extremely important part of leadership. It can be the difference of accomplishing goals are fighting an up-hill battle.
Therefore, I believe that every detail-oriented leader should intentionally build relational equity for three strategic reasons.
Everyone is a Volunteer
When we work a job, we are given tasks and assignments that we are responsible for. If I was your client and you were my account manager, responsible to manage my business account, you are probably going to treat me just like any other customer; you will work to build and keep a relationship with me, answer my questions, and generally keep me happy. That is the baseline responsibility of the job. Nothing more, nothing less.
But how would you treat a rock star or a celebrity? You would probably prioritize your efforts so that Will Smith was given better care than any of your other clients. And at the end of the day, no one else would really know that you prioritized for one client and no one would really care, assuming that all of the other clients felt you fulfilled your baseline responsibility.
The reality is that we all give priority to certain jobs or clients even though we are equally responsible for all of them. We do this because we have more energy and drive for certain things. Our priorities tend to align with our values, interests, and passions. We aren't going to neglect our other clients or tasks, but we find that we place a priority on those things that we enjoy. We do this because we are all volunteers; we are going to place the greatest amount of efforts on those things we choose to prioritize. Yes, we are responsible for much more, but we are volunteers as to where we place priorities and our absolute best efforts.
The same holds true in dealing with people. If you have established a great deal of relational equity with me, I am much more likely to go out of my way to assist you in your objectives than I would if you had a limited amount of relational equity. The bottom line is that I am going to spend more time helping you if I like and respect you. Or, if I feel that you like and respect me. As we may never know the priorities and areas that those who work for us give their best efforts for, we also may not realize the behind the scenes benefits we are getting from our relational equity.
May need a favor
The second reason that every leader should build relational equity is that we may need a favor from someone. Having friends who can help out occasionally is important to even the most independent of individuals.
For example, I travel as a consultant and my wife has been fortunate to be able to stay home with our young children. But about once a year, she will end up having a need to be out-of-town while I am also working. Having friends who are willing to step up and help with our kids during these infrequent times is invaluable to our family. But this would never happen without building relationships and earning relational equity.
The same is true in business. If I have a project I am working on, I often need to utilize my relational equity to form a team that builds momentum towards accomplishing my goals. Without relational equity, I am going to be much less likely to do a sizable favor for you and the same would be true for you doing a favor for me. Building relationships in business creates relational equity, which builds up and can be tapped on occasion.
The final reason every leader should build relation equity is that it is much more enjoyable to have relational equity. Anyway, business is all about relationships; without people, there is no business. Relational equity helps to build the culture of an organization on a number of levels.
First, leaders who build relational equity with their employees are helping to shape the culture of the organization. I have worked in environments where every person fends for themselves. I have also worked in environments where employees go out of their way to help their colleagues. These cultures are usually more productive, more enjoyable, and less stressful. And these types of cultures are usually the result of following an example set by the management team.
Secondly, loyalty is created when a leader builds relational equity with their team. Team members feel heard and a mutual respect can be built from relational equity. These satisfied employees often result in less employee turnover and more productive teams.
But relational equity goes beyond business; it is part of life. We either build relational equity with those around us, or we don't. Having relational equity can provide a number of benefits in both our personal and professional lives.
A Question for you.
steps have you taken to build relational equity in your personal or professional life?