Being able to connect with others helps us succeed with our customers and bosses, gain support from colleagues and get funding for our projects. Certain companies and individuals are masters at this; they can build great relationships faster, more substantially and in a way that serves the enterprise, themselves and the other party. Let’s look under the hood and see what we can learn from them.
Some firms have this ingrained in their culture. Patagonia, the outdoor outfitter, and Zappos, the online shoe company, are similar. Both have friendly staff and a great return policy. Don’t like the shoes? Send them back. Everything in the organization reiterates: “We like you, we trust you.” Further, Virgin America has become many travelers’ favorite ride as it provides a video panel, Wi-Fi availability and power plugs at every seat, every flight. But it’s the face-to-face impact of its competent, authentically nice staff that carries the day.
Guy Kawasaki has studied this type of business. He was Apple’s “chief evangelist” and is now a venture capitalist and author of Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions. The term enchantment may be over the top, but his prescriptions are specific and actionable. The top two practices that stem from this are likability and trustworthiness.
Likability: We must be, or become, likable. Smile so big your eyes squint, find something you truly like about a person, get to know their interests and passions, and help them win. Will Ellis, founder of Common Ground Consulting in Chelsea, Mich., is a consultant and author who exemplifies likability, but this was not always the case.
First, he hit rock bottom. “I traveled a lot, and then dragged it home on Friday. At the airport, I’d be tired and grouchy and disgusted with others acting out their frustrations. I hated that and them. Then once, as I approached the counter, the agent saw me, suddenly looked scared, and stepped back. It hit me hard: I had become one of those people. I was making things worse for myself and others. I decided that evening I was going to change, to take control of my emotions and choose a better experience. I began looking for the good in others, and now people smile when they see me because I usually have a big, real smile on my face. We all know how to be decent, to be friendly, but it takes willingness and commitment to stick with it.”
Being trusted by others requires consistent good action. To turn a phrase from Google: “Harm no one. Ever.”
Trustworthiness: Kevin Hall, former executive director of cardiac services for Broward General Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., had a staff of 120 employees. His No. 1 rule is “don’t burn bridges.” He establishes trust this way by not storming out of meetings or sending emails written while annoyed.
Hall says he has seen too many good people tell off their boss when parting ways. “When you burn a bridge, you never know what damage it causes or what might come back at you.” Hall has built so many good relations that when he walks past offices, people brighten up and offer a big “Hi! How are you?”
“As a leader, this is my other family,” Hall said. “I try to make it safe, encouraging and friendly, with the fewest bad relations possible.”
Relationship building is worthy, but things can go wrong. Kawasaki told me about the three roads. The low road means becoming combative. You have chosen the middle road when you ignore the problem. The high road is based around a sincere desire to achieve an outcome agreeable to both parties. This does not mean giving away the store.
The first step is doing some research. Talk to others who know the person or the company, check with reporting agencies if appropriate. Be willing to meet and talk. “Try to find something early on that you both agree upon, even if it is vacation spots, sports or dreams,” Kawasaki said.
Becoming more likable and trustworthy has business value. Building better relations helps us fund and complete our projects and reduces our cycle time. But it is something we must do for ourselves to reach our goals.
Brandon Hall is CEO of Brandon Hall Research, publisher of the study “Emerging e-Learning: New Approaches to Delivering Engaging Online Learning Content.” He can be reached at editor@CLOmedia.com.
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