Sustainable relationships. The modern proverb, “Blood is thicker than water,” begs an age old question of loyalty connected to family (blood) and friends (water). Our lives and relationships, inside and outside of business, frequently get tested by the challenges of life as we journey through the maze of the good, the bad and the ugly. Our most recent economic recession further challenged us as many simply sought to survive, not to mention thrive. So how do we weather the squalls and storms of life while maintaining relationships that will endure the test of time?
When pondering relationships in business, we see many established and larger firms that have been built on decades and generations of relationships. Through the good times and bad, real people inside of these firms have trusted, confided, laughed and, often, cried with other real people both inside and outside of their successful firm. When we look at the time-tested, successful companies in our community, we can examine what they have in common in order to glean tips and tactics for new and emerging firms.
Life-long educator, Rita Pierson of Waco, Texas, provided some clues as she proclaimed that “no significant learning can occur without a significant relationship.” While spoken in the context of kids in a classroom, Ms. Pierson prophetically speaks of empowerment and the profound effect that the support of others can have on someone who needs it. She brings the message home by citing the power of human connection and the difference genuine relationships can make in the lives of others. Thus, new and emerging firms, a recognized critical component of our recovering economy, should take note of these sage words from the classroom. If we, the entire community, desire continued economic expansion we should cherish and foster sustainable relationships at all levels in all of our endeavors.
A guide for achieving these lasting relationships can be found in Dr. Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective Leaders.” In his work, Dr. Covey cites habits 4 through 6 as dealing with the Interpersonal Relationships for our Public Victory: success with other people; our ability to get along with others. With these habits, he popularizes our “relationship bank accounts” representing the amount of trust and confidence you have in each of your relationships. Like a real checking account, you can make deposits and improve relationships or you can take withdrawals and weaken it.
So how can we build a rich relationship or repair a broken one? It’s simple . . . one deposit at a time. We find opportunities to make deposits through keeping promises, being loyal, doing small acts of kindness, listening, saying you are sorry and setting clear expectations. Likewise, we must guard against breaking promises, being arrogant, setting false expectations, and gossiping. Ultimately, we can lean on the many virtues of sustainability to guide us in all of our interactions of work, play and family to develop relationships for our success and the success of our community.
While we can rarely be sure of the outcome of testing blood and water in our business world, we can be sure of the positive impact of significant and intentional relationship deposits. Indeed, these deposits sometimes come with a significant price of vulnerability, risk and exposure, yet the benefits, both internal and external, can be extraordinary. Give it a try. Be intentional. Offer it up and you may be amazed at the outcomes.