Cultivating winning relationships

There are only two things that matter in business and life.  The first is relationships, and I forget the other one. It’s a reality that you cannot have success in business, your career, or life without cultivating winning relationships. Relationships are truly at the centre of good working lives. Those professional relationships that I describe in Cultivate: The Power of Winning Relationships as Allies.

The power of an ally

An Ally will have your back. They are invested in your success, both on the good days (when things are easy) and especially on the tough days. These are the people who support you through good times and bad times. You are honest and loyal to one another and they have your back.

However, this relationship is not about skipping through the daisies and a ‘little house on the prairie’ scenario. An Ally will give you tough love. They will deliver the feedback you need to hear, not just the feedback you want to hear. A true Ally will be the first person in your office when you have just come out of a bad meeting.

They are the ones who hold the mirror to your face and make you take a hard look at what has happened, and how you have contributed to the situation.  They then coach you through it and help you fix it, but they aren’t afraid to give you the bad with the good.

Clear expectations

This relationship occurs when you have alignment and clear expectations as to HOW you will work together. Knowing how underpins a strong relationship. It’s the “I am right there with you” approach that makes this an unconditional relationship. One you can rely on no matter what.  In addition, it is focused outward on your success, on mutual success. The “We first” or “we together” approach. Think of the three musketeers, “one for all and all for one”

For me, the concept of an Ally relationship correlates with the work done by Gallup and its engagement data. Those of you who are familiar with their Q12 will know that there is a question “Do I have a best friend at work?” This is a powerful question (one that is often dismissed at first glance as being soft and fluffy). Think about it, we spend the vast majority of our adult lives at work. If we don’t have one colleague, a professional relationship, or an Ally that we can lean on then work becomes a very lonely (and potentially vulnerable) place.

Friends and Allies

Allies are friends with each other, at some level and at least for a period of time. Despite their differences of opinion, for example, Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin shared a common enemy during World War II. Later, the two of them became allies against the third. This illustrates not just the power of an ally, but also the need to cultivate the relationship that underpins it. It’s possible to obtain the former in the absence of the latter. But the power comes from putting the two together.

Friends don’t always see eye to eye on things. They will have differences of opinion. But there will be many more things that they agree with. Think of your own friendships. Do you argue all the time? Do you disagree on the basics for everything: politics and religion, for example? In true friendships, there will be some banter and even healthy discussions, but the relationship will always bring peace, not turmoil.

Friends will help one another more readily than those who are not. They’ll recognize the nuances of each other’s expertise. They’ll also be cognizant of their weaknesses and will forgive their foibles. You’ll find that you are able to influence one another. You might buy a book because your friend recommended it. They might see a movie that you thought was particularly good. You may even choose to attend some events together.

Liking each other

Facebook recognized the power of online friendships when it introduced “likes.” This may sound like a corny, spotty-teenager sort of thing, but it isn’t. It epitomizes a principle that salespeople have known for decades. It’s simply this: When people like one another or something about that person, then they’ll probably accept an idea or a suggestion from him or her. For example, if someone “likes” you, then you’ll probably “like” him or her back. If someone sends you a photo, then you’ll probably reciprocate. This is called the Principle of Consistency, and it simply means that, predictably, you will be true to yourself.

Once you “like” someone, you’ll discover that it’s quite difficult for you to “unlike ” or “unfriend” that person. If you have any doubts, then try it. It’ll make you feel as though you’re being disloyal. That’s the consistency principle at work.

In the offline world, friendships are most likely to occur wherever you spend the most time. It could be at work, in a church, or in a gym, to name just three. But, it’s in such places that people get to see if you’re someone that they’d like to get to know a bit better.

A question of trust

As a friendship develops, so professional respect is enhanced, and the trust between those who are in it increases. There becomes a willingness to share insights, make introductions, and go the extra mile to help ensure success. And so you can see already that powerful allies come from strong friendships.

Not every friendship will result in an ally relationship, and your best allies may not even be your greatest friends. But one way or another, there will be a friendship in the middle of it.

One way to increase the chances of cultivating winning relationships that will lead to powerful allies is to join an organization where the sorts of people you would like to get to know are also members. A search on the Internet will produce millions of links to various business clubs around the world. You should have no trouble finding one near you. If for some reason you’re so far from civilization that you can’t find one, then find someone who likes tea or coffee, and start drinking it with him or her once or twice per week.

The people are out there; but just like the “feeding stations” in a marathon, you have to put yourself in their path.

  • About the Author
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Morag Barrett helps leaders achieve outstanding results through the power of their professional relationships. She is an in-demand keynote speaker, executive coach, leadership expert, and bestselling author of three books: Cultivate: The Power of  Winning Relationships, The Future-Proof Workplace, and You, Me, We: Why we all need a friend at work (and how to show up as one!)

Morag excels at helping leaders and organizations see the gaps in their development and discover new ways to move past them. A pragmatic ideator, she finds unique solutions to problems (usually through the power of connection). Her greatest joy lies in giving leaders the tools, encouragement, and resources they need to become the best authentic versions of themselves they can be. 

She also…

  • Has helped more than 15,000 leaders from 20 countries on 4 continents improve the effectiveness of their leaders and teams.
  • Is the proud mother of three 6ft tall sons who can thoroughly beat her in basketball, but don’t stand a chance in Scrabble.
  • Has been featured by Entrepreneur.com, Forbes, and The American Management Association among others.
  • Spent three weeks at sea with a group of Estonian sailors.
  • Prefers gin to scotch, despite having a Scottish name (it means “great” …and she is!).
  • Is a member of the 100 Coaches organization formed by Marshall Goldsmith.
  • Has more than 50 unicorn themed items at home (none of which she has bought for herself!)