Building a quality business relationship

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There are five steps to having a colleague or contact take a real emotional stake in your success.

Whatever you think about the state of mentoring in the industry – regulatory impost or cash grab – the original logic behind such a relationship is understandable. Having someone take a genuine interest in helping your career, even if it costs them, can have a transformative effect in the long run.

You can’t just assume such relationships will develop naturally, insists software CEO and management lecturer Jim Dougherty, writing in the Harvard Business Review. He splits the relationship-building process into five distinct stages:

1 .They must like you

Suppress your cries of ‘no [xxxx] Sherlock!’ Dougherty’s take on being likeable is that it’s not binary; you’re not just going to click (or not). He argues going out of your way to help people (even in small ways), presents you as a likeable person.

2. They must respect you professionally

That means they see you’re competent, respect your work, and even admire it – so you need to present yourself as among the best at what you do.

3. They need to admire your ‘whole person’

This stage requires getting to know that person outside of an immediate work context. Being outside of the office or corporate events gives you a chance to talk about interests outside of work, where you may find common ground. “Once this step has been accomplished the other person will be genuinely happy and interested to hear of your success and accomplishments,” writes Dougherty. “There will be no resentment or jealously.”

4. Develop a friendship

Through out-of-work activities involving significant others, children or friends you can really spend quality time getting to know someone. At this stage they will not only be happy for your success, they’ll be willing to contribute to it, even if it costs them political capital.

5. Maintain a relationship after your business dealings end

Dougherty warns that it’s at this stage many people abandon a relationship, just as it’s becoming really valuable. He argues that “consistency and longevity are key.” You need to make time for that person.

Ultimately, Dougherty reasons, you shouldn’t pursue relationships cynically for the simple reason that you won’t make the effort to take those five steps unless you genuinely like that person.

Read Dougherty’s original article on the HBR’s website.

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