It has long been argued that relationship building skills are essential in business, as they show clients the care and connection which converts business. However, research is suggesting that it is becoming almost a lost art and that many today do not work hard enough in building relationships and instead expect the company’s proposition to be enough.
The basis of the argument is that relationship building is based off a skill in developing social connections. With the advent of social media, many have lost an understanding of what a social connection entails. If one has 3,000 Linkedin connections, isn’t that a sign of a strong social connections?
The answer, of course, is less about how many connections one may possess but far more about how many of the 3,000 will trust you in a moment of conflict? The counter argument is simple; relationship building and operating with trust not just makes one more productive and successful, it stops conflicts escalating. A Linkedin connection will rarely achieve this. There needs to be more substance.
One concern has been the number of students who have not seen the value in returning to University campuses post pandemic. University used to be all about friendship and social connections and past generations have long proved the success that University years can have in future careers. How can the perspective and value of friendship and social connectivity have been lost?
The decline in a true focus on relationship building has been a process of gradual erosion over many years. Even in business, the concept of long lunches with clients has become seen as a negative and of course client entertaining had had more and more rules attached to it. However, the simple truth remains in place – little has more value as an asset to an individual than having the trust of another. One can face almost any crisis, and better still possess the confidence to face any crisis, if they know they possess trusted relationships in place. It sits at the core of any strong mind-set and mentality.
If you want to find someone who can withstand intense pressure, then find a person who people trust in.
It brings into sharp focus then the sad truth of how many feel disengaged at work and feel unable to cope, even at CEO level. It has long been said that the acid test of a senior player is whether they are able to manage the toughest of conversations.
It is true hard conversations are almost a daily reality for most leaders and the most accomplished are able to manage in their stride and if they are skilled in relationship building will use a difficult situation to build greater trust.
It all leads onto a bigger piece. Social connections are critical to physical and mental wellbeing. One in three employees report that they feel less connected to their peers at work than before the pandemic. Even before the pandemic, the annual cost of workplace stress from absenteeism and declining performance at work was estimated to be $500 billion. Even more daunting, 2 in 3 workers in the U.S. are disengaged at work and lack a strong sense of wellbeing. In the UK, this figure is averaging around the 71% mark and interesting Europe scores 20% lower at 55%.
It is clear that the need to build work cultures where relationship building sits right at the heart of work is crucial to long term success.
Of course, hybrid working will naturally mean that there needs to be even more focus on relationship building skills. Maybe there is a need to go back to basics, back to school and relearn the fundamentals of what does create success?