The Relationship Engine

"Success comes from the experience we create for others."

- The Relationship Engine, preface

A recent study revealed that 89 percent of senior executives believe that relationships are key to their success. We all know that strong business relationships can make or break you. Why is it then, that so few people actually do anything intentional or systematic toward developing them?

Thankfully, Ed Wallace breaks it down for us in The Relationship Engine. He shares both empirical and experiential findings that smash the age-old belief that “you either have it or you don’t” regarding relationships. He shows us that there is an underlying process rather than randomness to building business relationships. He helps leaders and wannabe leaders see how the conscious, intentional cultivation of effective relationships is foundational to business success.

Below is a summary of his Five Principles that Relational Leaders employ intentionally to build and sustain relationships that create better outcomes. Additionally you will find a summary of the progression from acquaintance to respected advisor. And finally, five ways to sustain great relationships once cultivated. The approach he describes is simple and straightforward to apply, yet can be profound in its outcomes.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

The Five Principles of the Relational Leader

"Customers no longer buy what you sell; they buy what you stand for."
- The Relationship Engine, page 1

The Five Principles of the Relational Leader are:

  1. Display worthy intent
  2. Care about people’s goals, passions and struggles.
  3. Make every interaction matter
  4. Value people before processes
  5. Connect performance to a purpose

Let’s zoom in on the first and last ones: displaying worthy intent and connecting to a purpose. “Worthy intent is the inherent promise you make to put the other person’s best interest at the core of your business relationship,” explains Wallace. Not only is this concept central to this book, it is central to your success. Adam Grant describes these types of people as Givers in Give and Take and illustrates how these people win over Matchers and Takers.

When thinking about your worthy intent, it helps to connect to your purpose. Here’s the thing. People perform at their best when they have a clear sense of their purpose. Also, “People like to work with people they share common goals with!” That common goal is NOT for you to increase sales!

What is your greater purpose? And how does it connect to your customer’s goal? I work in the pharma industry and teach pharma professionals to focus on how they can help the doctor create better patient outcomes. Clearly that is the purpose the pharma professional shares with the health-care professional.

Unfortunately, most people miss the boat here and instead focus on their outcome—getting the sale—instead of the purpose (that results in a sale). The most successful people have figured out this mindset shift.

Wallace lists five questions to help you articulate that purpose including:

  • Who do I want to be?
  • How do I want to be perceived?
  • What am I here for?
  • What is most important to me?
  • What will my contribution be?

A greater purpose can be found in any job. I was so impressed by our shuttle bus driver at the Phoenix airport. His greater purpose was to make his customers smile. He made more than double in tips compared to what his peers made and was significantly happier!

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

From Acquaintance to Respected Advisor

"Every successful business relationship begins with and shares common goals."
- The Relationship Engine, page 117

When thinking about creating business relationships that last, picture a ladder. To climb this ladder from acquaintance to respected advisor, there are five rungs that include, from the bottom up:

  • Establish common ground
  • Display integrity and trust
  • Use time purposefully
  • Offer help
  • Ask for help

Each side of the ladder’s frame, or leg of the ladder, represents a specific skill set. On the one leg are the hard skills, or the ‘science’ of your approach. This is your product knowledge, expertise in the market, industry know how.

The other leg of the ladder represents the soft skills or the ‘art’ of your approach. These are your interpersonal skills and behaviors like friendliness, approachability, communication skills, presentation skills, and emotional intelligence.

If either one of these are weak, your ladder will be unbalanced. It really is a careful balancing act to get just the right amount of each skill set to climb successfully.

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

5 Ways to Sustain Great Relationships

"Purpose pulls profits along, the way a horse pulls a cart."
- The Relationship Engine, page 93

Now that you have figured out how to create great relationships, how do you keep them? Here are five ideas Wallace shares:

  1. Always be intentional about relationships
  2. Become great at observing behaviors
  3. Respect at-will relationships
  4. Power relationship capital through the five principles
  5. Harness your relationship power

As a practical example of how to apply this in everyday work, let’s look at a typical meeting. Research shows that while most professionals attend 61.8 meetings a month, over 50 percent of this meeting time is wasted. So, as an intentional leader, to improve upon this, you can think of the acronym ‘POP’, which stands for purpose, outcomes and process.

The P involves defining the reasons for the meeting. It describes the specific work to be completed (the what) and the benefits to the participants when the work is completed (the why). You have a tremendous opportunity here to display your worthy intent by keeping the participants’ interests in the forefront.

Once you are clear on the purpose, you should plan the O, or outcomes, with which each participant will leave the meeting. This will also help you determine for whom the meeting is essential.

Your second P is for process, or the actual steps your meeting will follow to achieve the purpose and reach the outcomes. When planning your next meeting, try asking yourself and clearly articulating answers to the following questions:

  1. Purpose statement (What are we trying to do and why?)
    – We are meeting to… (What is the meeting about?)
    – So that… (Who will attend and why will they benefit?)
  2. Outcomes (What are the three things people will take away?)
  3. Process (What are the steps we will follow to accomplish the above?)

A final tip for meetings. Why not start them at 10 past the hour instead of the top of the hour? Knowing that people often struggle to move from one meeting that ends at the top of the hour to the next one, wouldn’t this demonstrate how much you value the other person’s time?

Are you intentional about your relationship development? What do you need to do to move your business relationships forward? Just being conscious of it is the first step. So good for you! What will you do next?

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Jill Donahue

ABOUT Jill Donahue

Everything I do is focused on improving patient outcomes. I do that by being a student and teacher of ethical, effective influence. I teach pharma people and health care professionals how to improve their ability to influence others...
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