The phrase “relationship management” has worked its way into our business vocabulary pretty pervasively in the past decade. But what does that really mean? It’s all about your interpersonal communication skills. Do you inspire and influence others? Do you communicate well, and help people change, grow, and develop?
It may sound intimidating, but relationship management skills can be taught and learned. And the more you can master these skills, the more success you’ll find in your professional relationships. A great way to start is by taking a quick temperature check to find out just how strong your current skills are, and identify which aspects need a little work. Do a brief self-assessment and start with these three questions:
1. Are you really listening?: We all know by now the importance and value of professional skills like active listening. Do you simply tune out questions and start immediately thinking of your response? Truly listen to what is being said and avoid rushing to judgment. Show respect by offering non-verbal cues like smiling and strong eye contact to show you are really focused on the speaker and their thoughts.
2. Do you choose to build the relationship? Remember, the “how” matters. There may be a simple or impulsive answer to a relationship issue or client request that allows you to “win,” but at what cost? Yes — maybe a client is asking for outrageous contingencies within your deal. You may be laughing hysterically on the inside, thinking “That’s ridiculous!” But is that really the best response? You risk damaging the relationship. Consider alternatives, not necessarily in the outcome, but in how you communicate it. A simple “Let me think about your request for a few days and do some research” may still result in a “no” for the other party, but leaves him feeling validated and valued instead.
3. Do you focus on EI? The additional elements of Emotional Intelligence (self-awareness, self-management, social awareness) work synergistically to aid you with this fourth pillar, relationship management. If you haven’t already, read about those other elements (or watch our lovely Emotional Intelligence and employee connection webinar!) and devote some time to improving them for yourself.
Do you have some work to do? Don’t worry — you’re not alone! Most of us can certainly benefit from checking in with our own relationship management skills to see where we can grow. It’s never too late to start on the path to improvement. Even if you think your skills are second to none, it can’t hurt to strive to take them up a notch. With strong (or stronger) relationship management skills, you’ll be well on your way to building more effective relationships.