Developing quality relationships can be an integral part of your success. Every relationship requires an investment of time and energy, both of which are valuable commodities in our fast-paced world. The skills necessary to develop and deepen relationships come easy to some but are not necessarily instinctual. They can be learned if one is determined enough to make an investment in themselves.
Here are five habits to build relationships that last:
1. Listen and learn. Good communication is a critical component that can determine your relationship’s strength. Unfortunately, few of us are taught to be good listeners as part of communicating. Most are distracted by impatiently waiting for the other person to stop talking so they can get their point or comment across and only hear part of the conversation. Listen to the whole story and watch for non-verbal cues like facial expression and posture as these tell a lot about what someone really feels, thinks or needs you to say next. I sometimes try to mirror the emotions (frustration, joy, sorrow) of the person speaking so I can better connect and show empathy for what they are saying.
2. Share at the right time. Most of us know someone who shares their entire life story within the first few minutes of meeting, generally oblivious to the fact that we have no interest in hearing that they played football in high school. Good relationship builders pace themselves and share when appropriate to keep things consistent with the depth of the relationship. As the relationship grows, it’s natural to go deeper with what you share. I try to share personal experiences that help people struggling through difficult situations without giving advice or solving a problem. “This is how I reacted when something similar happened to me,” instead of, “You should do this.”
3. Invest in your business partners. The commercial real estate industry can be very transactional, and there isn’t a lot of value in starting over every time you want to do a new deal. Throughout my career, I have seen people develop superficial relationships and do deals with others only afterward to say, “I will never do business with so and so again” for whatever reason. Invest the time to find people and business partners you can trust in varying positions (capital partners, lenders, brokers, attorneys, etc.) who understand your culture, strategy and process. The next time you have a deal, these relationships won’t need to be reeducated on how you and your business operate or what’s important to you. This will build trust and accomplish goals more effectively.
4. Be consistent. Don’t stress over things you can’t control. Be appreciative and aware of the things you can control, such as how you treat people and what you do to position your business. In relationships, actions speak louder than words, so take the time to evaluate the message others are receiving about yourself or your company. If you’re saying one thing but acting out another, make changes to build a consistent code of conduct.
5. Give more than you receive. Relationships aren’t always a 50/50 deal, and particularly as they deepen over time, both parties are likely willing to give more than the other if asked or needed. Remember, there’s no correlation between your sales figures and the number of business cards you distribute or the number of contacts on your LinkedIn profile. The more you give, the more potential you have to get. When one of your relationships provides you with helpful advice or a lead, be sure to go above and beyond in reciprocating. Send a hand-written card, return with a gift or refer a new business opportunity. There are many ways to do this, so take the time to do it thoughtfully.
As you build important relationships, consider practicing these five habits to make the time spent more rewarding. Although you can’t measure success by the number of your relationships, expanding and deepening your circle of influence can lead to positive outcomes.
Danny Lovell is president and CEO of The Rainier Cos.