Relationship Acumen: A Key to Building Winning Working Relationships

by terrywelford

in Communication, Feedback, General, Leadership, Teamwork and Team Building

Jessica is an IT Director for a mid-size organization. She’s a technical wizard, yet her boss keeps hearing complaints about her customer service skills from various internal departments which IT supports.


Tom is a market research expert and he recently decided to take his experience to the next level by starting his own market research company. His impressive credentials and experience has opened the door for him with many potential new clients, and he’s used these meetings to talk about his strong points and what he can do. He’s discouraged that he hasn’t closed any new business.


Jim is a seasoned HR manager in a state university. He believes in administering HR “by the book” and his main concern is keeping his organization in compliance with the various laws and regulations affecting HR. His recent 360 feedback report indicated that Jim is seen as highly knowledgeable, but also inflexible, unapproachable, and not an advocate for employees.


Although these three individuals are different, they share a common theme – they are technically proficient in their roles, but not successful. They are all missing a critical skill. I see this in my work over and over again. The fact is, whether you work for an organization or for yourself, it is highly likely you depend on the cooperation and collaboration of other people to be successful. Few people are islands – they need to work well with their staff, coworkers, team, customers, clients, business partners, vendors, consultants, and others. They key to working well is building winning relationships with others.Collaboration


Whatever your professional role is – for example, an executive in a large corporation, a small business owner, a non-profit professional, an entrepreneur, or an academic administrator, to name a few – you need to know how to build winning work relationships. In my last post, I talked about the P4 Model for Growth & Prosperity™ – People, Productivity, Profits and Peace of Mind. 


To be effective in the People quadrant, it’s all about your Relationship Acumen™ – the ability to work well with others. Relationship Acumen is more than just the ability to communicate well – it includes a wide variety of behaviors and competencies that enable you to build winning work relationships. What are these behaviors and competencies? Well, let me borrow the format of my favorite TV quiz show, Jeopardy, and provide the answer in the form of a question – a series of questions, actually. Oh and, just for the fun of it, you can use these questions as a simple and quick self-assessment of your own Relationship Acumen™.


·        Accountability – Do you take responsibility for your own actions?

·        Approachability – Do you initiate interaction, establish rapport, and make people comfortable? Are you available to others?

·        Collaboration – Are you viewed as a team player and someone who encourages cooperation?

·        Communication – How effective are your written, verbal and nonverbal communication skills? Do you understand and adapt to the communication style of others?

·        Conflict Management – Do you step up to conflicts, seeing them as opportunities? Are you able to manage conflict situations comfortably?

·        Flexibility – How good are you at varying your approach with the situation? Are you open to solutions and ideas other than your own?

·        Influencing – Can you promotes an idea or vision effectively? Are you persuasive? Do you work effectively with people over whom you have no direct authority?

·        Information Sharing – Do you share appropriate information with others? Do you practice openness and disclosure? Do you ask others for feedback and listen with an open mind?

·        Integrity – Do you behave in accordance with your values in good times and bad? Are you able to put the group’s or organization’s objectives ahead of your own ambitions?

·        Interaction – Do you treat people with respect? Do you demonstrate empathy and understanding?

·        Listening – How effectively do you listen to others? Do you listen for understanding? Can you listen empathically?

·        Negotiation – Do you negotiate effectively? When negotiating, can you be both direct and forceful as well as diplomatic? Do you facilitate win/win solutions?

·        Presentation – Are you effective in a variety of presentation settings? Do you convey your message clearly and directly? Can you adapt your presentation style to a variety of audiences?

·        Self-Awareness – Do you know your personal strengths and weaknesses? Are you aware of your individual style and its impact on others?

·        Self-Management – Do you manage your own mood level so as not to negatively impact others?

·        Service Focus – Are you dedicated to meeting and exceeding the expectations of those you serve (clients, customers, etc.)? How well do you provide service recovery when things go wrong?

·        Teamwork – How effective are you at bringing people together successfully around tasks or goals? Are you able to create strong morale and a sense of belonging?

·        Trustworthiness – Do you keep promises and honor commitments? Do you demonstrate consistency between your words and actions? Are you able to honor confidential and sensitive information?


And for those of you who manage others…


·        Development – Do you accurately identify the strengths and development needs of those you manage? Are you an effective coach and mentor? Do you hold frequent development discussions with those you manage?

·        Direction – Do you give clear directions? Are you delegating effectively? How effectively do you manage others’ performance, including problem individuals?

·        Motivation – Have you created a climate in which people want to do their best? Do you empower others? Do you make each person feel that his or her work is important?


How you answered these questions will give you a better idea of your own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to your Relationship Acumen™ (see, you’re already working on your Self-Awareness…). In future posts, we’ll look more closely at many of these behaviors and competencies – stay tuned!

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