Leaders Must Be Relationship Builders

This evening after dinner, my daughter and I were rolling around on the floor with our dogs as we paused (or is it paws’d) while moving her drawing desk. As the licking and laughing was going on, the all too familiar tone of my iPhone told us a text alert demanded attention.

Trained from my time as a newspaper and media executive, my daughter jumped up and got the phone.I had no intention of interrupting the belly rubbing I was giving Ellie on Wheels, our Chihuahua. As it turned out, the text was a friend that had had a bad day. I shot him a pick-me-up and glanced at emails.

An Unexpected Email

There wasn’t anything vital. I put the phone down knowing that one email had caught my eye. It was from a publisher colleague.As I was scratching a second needy mutt’s tummy, I made a mental note to check that email when I had a chance.

Later in the evening, I opened the email and was again reminded why leaders must be relationship builders.

My colleague’s thought process in the email was clear. He needed some help. He and I have always had a good relationship. He knew I was a free agent. He sent an email with a win-win suggestion.He connected the dots and I replied back immediately with a giddy-up.

Five Reasons Why Leaders Must Be Relationship Builders

Leaders must maintain and develop relationships to grow their business, open up new options for their organization, find help when they need it, grow themselves as a leader, and to allow their team new opportunities.

Growing Their Business – Whether a leader is running a for-profit company or a non-profit organization, the leader is the chief sales person. The leader must maintain strong, positive relationships and set the example by always asking for the order. My friend Bridget runs a large non-profit that feeds, clothes and houses the masses in a poor city. She is the best relationship builder and deal closer I know.

Opening Up New Options – Short term history isn’t always kind to former Disney Chairman and CEO, Michael Isner. Experts can argue both sides of the details, but one thing is true; Isner always saw the options and the opportunities. His role in expanding The Walt Disney Company turned it into the media and entertainment empire it is today. Eisner did it with relationships that put new options on the table allowing him to make key acquisitions.

Help When It Is Needed – I liked Joe the moment I met him. He is a typical, cranky, sarcastic newspaper character and I think he is priceless. A few years ago, I wanted the syndicated Wall Street Journal’s Sunday content in my Sunday newspaper. The content would broaden appeal and bring value to the cover price. The rep from Dow Jones told me no way. He said Joe would never agree to it and that he had a geographic lock and that he would not allow it. Joe and I had a relationship. I needed a break and he gave it to me. He granted permission with no harm, no foul.

Growing as a Leader– The leader that is like Charles Dickens’ character Ebenezer Scrooge that sits grumbling and giving all the reasons why never leaving his or her office is wise, simply doesn’t grow. The leader that mixes with other leaders sees and learns that there is more than one way to lead an organization. Chances are they will also find a mentor or two and that never hurts.

The Team Grows – Over the years I have taken my teams to see how a minor league baseball park runs, how a prison is organized; how movies tell leadership stories, how a television station reports the news, and how a hospital handles guest (most call them patients). I simply had to pick up the phone and ask a fellow leader if he or she could show us around and explain how they do things. We always returned the favor. As a result my team was able to learn and grow as has my colleagues’ teams.

Relationships Are Free. The Lack of Relationships are Costly

Look back at the five points above. Each one either earns money for an organization, saves money or provides a free benefit all as a result of the leaders’ relationships.

The next time you get a chance to develop a new relationship, take it. If you aren’t the leader yet, but plan to be, start building relationships now.Leaders must be relationship builders if they are going to bring optimal value to their organization.

Shake a hand, take a card and follow up with a cup of coffee or lunch. It may just turn out to be a million dollar relationship.

Question: How do you develop and maintain relationships to touch on the five points above? Leave your answers and comments below.

Al Getler is a writer, speaker and consultant in the areas of media, digital media, leadership and customer service. He is also a comedian and a ventriloquist. Summed up, it means you will laugh and learn with him at your company, your convention or your event.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.