Over the years, I realized relationships in business mean everything. Whether it’s a new employer or a new Customer, the beginning of a relationship sets the standards for how the two of you will interact moving forward. With so much riding on this new relationship, it’s important that you are clear and detailed about these standards.
To that end here are 8 important tips regarding establishment of the parameters for a new business relationship:
Tip #1: Be yourself.
Too many people try to be something they aren’t. They try to be too clever or too much fun. I learned over the years people can see through it when you are putting on an act.
Tip #2: Do as you would be done by.
My mum taught me this. Treating others as you want to be treated is the first and foremost concept that applies to all relationships, business or otherwise. In a business relationship, it means you treat your contact as you would like them to treat you.
Tip #3: Be sure to give positive reinforcement to behaviors you prefer.
Many studies have shown the best way to get more of the behavior you like is to acknowledge it with positive reinforcement. Rather than blasting a subordinate, co-worker, or client with criticism when they cross you, you should instead compliment the behavior you like.
In addition to remembering to acknowledge it, be sure that you give the positive reinforcement in the moment or directly after the incident. The happy feelings associated with the exchange are likely to make a better impression in their mind, improving your chances that you will enjoy the behavior again. For example, to the employee who presented both a problem and solution with an account: “I like how you came in with a proposed solution for that problem we had with the account. It makes my job easier when I have solutions presented to me instead of just problems.”
This does not mean, however, negative feedback is never warranted. It is important to also acknowledge the problems when they occur. When you do this, however, be sure to focus on the “the behavior” and not the individual. If you attack the person instead of the behavior, you can damage the business relationship.
For example, when a Customer emails your manager about a shipping problem instead of you, you might say something like, “When emails go to my manager about shipping problems first, there is a delay before I hear about it making it take longer to fix the problem. Can you please email me directly with those complaints?“
Tip #4: Be realistic about what you expect from people.
You can’t expect a new employee, co-worker or Customer to know all the rules in the first week, and in some cases, even in the first month. You must give them time to adjust to the new system and take in the feedback they receive. If you are consistent with positive reinforcement, it will work. Don’t give up too soon.
In addition, they might have expectations as well. Be open to what they bring to the table, as it might be a great way of doing things you hadn’t considered. I always tell my team, “None of us is as clever as all of us.”
Tip #5: Be Honest.
Don’t lie. I don’t need to say any more.
Tip #6: Accept the fact you will argue.
Relationships are not always smooth sailing. Conflict resolution is all part of building a relationship. Accept the fact you will argue, but when you do make it short lived. If you are in the wrong, apologize. Discuss what caused the argument and work out how to avoid it for the future.
Tip #7: Make time for the person.
Always make time to just chat to the person. Do this without any ulterior motive.
Tip #8: Help them when they need it.
If they need help. Help them. Don’t think, “What’s in it for me?” It’s the times like this my mum would say, “You know who your friends are.” It’s funny when I have experienced hard times, the people I thought were my friends and I had a relationship with faded into the background and other people came to the fore. This is a great test of a relationship.
This article is published in collaboration with LinkedIn. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.
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Image: Two men shake hands. UNICS REUTERS/Jim Young.