When we look around today, there are connections occurring literally everywhere. On social media, you can instantly connect with thousands of people all over the world. So why does it seem like relationships have taken a backseat? In our fast-paced world of instant connections, we seem to have lost the slow art of building genuine relationships.
The problem is global leaders have unprecedented responsibility. Their scope of work is as vast as the globe in they traverse. This isn’t a problem for just one generation, either. Baby boomers in the workforce have contributed to the spread of the U.S-centric business culture, which focuses strongly on competition and individual innovation. These aren’t bad things, but they often overshadow the importance of interdependence, strong relationships and trust.
Now, add in the millennials. They’re known for their personal drive and the need for instant feedback. But this drive is often built on self-centered goals. Mix in the corporate drive for value creation and productivity, and it is easy to see how what author Michael Hyter calls “relational proficiency” can be lost.
The solution is to place relationships back at the top of our list of priorities. Global leaders need to not only recognize the importance of personal relationships to their success but also invest time in developing their relationship-building skills. We also have to make relationship-building part of the global business culture. This culture shift should naturally start at the top with organizational leaders. They must make relationships a priority, and reward relationship-building among employees.
Lead by example.
You can strengthen your team’s capacity for building relationships by making interpersonal relationships part of your office culture. This means taking the time to get to know the people around you, expanding your capacity for listening, and creating space for conversation.
One challenge to relationship building in Western culture is that we tend to be self-centered. Everyone wants to climb the ladder of success, and we value a competitive mindset. If everyone wants to win for themselves, though, no one is thinking of others. We have to relearn how to prioritize other people. Tweak your mindset to focus on giving to others, rather than taking for yourself. Learning to focus on others’ needs is an essential skill to build relationships and to meet market demands.
Take your time.
Global leaders are used to a fast-paced environment, but good things often take time. Relationships are one of those things. If you want long-lasting, effective business relationships, you’re going to have to put consistent effort in week-by-week, month-by-month. Following through and showing dedication to a relationship will reward you with a strong connection. You can practice this skill by focusing on one relationship per quarter. Choose a connection you want to create or build, and work on developing mutual respect and success with that person throughout the quarter.
Although your end goal in building a relationship may be business success, you’re going to have to focus on the personal side of things to get there. You can build business relationships the same way you build friendships: spend time together and develop common interests. Requesting a connection on LinkedIn does not count as building an actual connection. Sometimes, the old fashioned approach is best. Pick up the phone or get together for lunch. If you do need to rely on technology, remember the person behind the screen. Take the time to notice personal interests, achievements and hobbies. Use these as conversation starters, and show an interest in who your connection is as a person. This simple approach will help you to build genuine relationships.
As global leaders, we are all stronger when we are connected. As the world speeds up, it’s important we don’t forget that.
Monica P. Hawkins is CEO of PPDG and is an adviser to Fortune 1000 C-suite executives across the globe, focusing on alignment of business objectives with talent management systems and learning agendas.