14 Important Keys to Creating Natural Business Relationships

Newsweek Magazine
Whether it’s an employee, a partner or a potential client, business success depends on nurturing genuine, organic relationships.
Expert Panel Newsweek

When speaking or working with a new employee, partner or prospect, you don’t want to jump right into a sale or ask someone for a favor upfront. Instead, it’s best to approach the relationship in a genuine, authentic manner and allow things to develop naturally. Otherwise, you may drive the other party away if your outreach or conversation feels forced.

To help organically build business relationships, a panel of Newsweek Expert Forum members shares 14 important elements of successful connections with your stakeholders. Follow their advice to help improve the quality and flow of your business conversations.

1. Listening

Really listening to their needs and concerns is key. Almost equally important is to ask questions that are focused on them. This brings better understanding to the relationship and demonstrates your attention to their situation. Finally, summarize what they have said back to them. This is done not only for mutual understanding or clarification, but to show them that you heard what they had to say. – Alan Wozniak.

2. Empathy

Empathy is key. It’s important to understand where people are coming from and why they’re interested in working with your company or for you. In the new world of remote work, people can truly work wherever they want. At the same time, it’s harder to leave a company when you like and connect with the people there. This can be more important than the salary or the job itself.

3. Conversations Outside the Office

Get out of your office and out of meetings and get into natural conversations with people. Grab a coffee or take a walk around the office with a new person each week. Ten minutes starts the ball rolling.

4. Genuine Interest in People as Human Beings

Be genuinely interested in them as humans with dignity rather than as a means to your goals. Most often, investing in the individual growth of employees or customers without expectation of immediate benefit is the prerequisite for the goodwill that motivates them to invest in your wellbeing in return. Make sure to understand what they value in themselves and you will know how to best value them.

5. A Desire to Learn and Connect

I always try to approach new relationships with two assumptions. The first is that I assume we’re already going to be friends. My goal isn’t to “close” someone or to get an employee to work. Instead, I try to learn about the person and what makes them special. The second thing is I always treat them the way I’d like to be treated—with respect, honesty and outcomes that work for everyone.

6. Truly Hearing and Understanding the Other Person

The most basic of all human needs is to be heard and understood. This need doesn’t change just because you’re at work. When you’re with an employee or client, ask them an open-ended question. Then maintain eye contact, truly hear their words, notice the emotion in their face and respond to what they said. By making others feel heard, you create meaningful, productive relationships.

7. An Understanding of Their Communication Style

Take a personality assessment to understand how others like to receive information. Don’t put on a facade but adapt your communication style to suit the other. If the person wants to get to the bottom line right away, do that. If the person wants to talk about their weekend first, do that. I find the more you can flex, the more natural you become! You will have a greater range.

8. A Foundation of Trust

Build trust first. Be authentic and available. Do what you say you’re going to do, and give people the benefit of the doubt. Don’t overthink or overdo it! It’s back to basics here.

9. Integrity and Honesty

The key is to have integrity, be upfront and be honest at all times. Show genuine interest in who they are in and out of the office. I could always tell where I stood with colleagues and leaders if they never asked me anything about myself—not prying nosy questions, but sincere interest with questions about travel, family or social activities.

10. Transparency and Authenticity

The key to creating a relationship is being organic, transparent and authentic. Acknowledging the value in the person and making a genuine connection is a must. People want to be around those who are truly invested in their best interests.

11. Servant Leadership

Be a servant leader. I look to serve my employees, team and clients. I ask simple questions like, “How can I best help you?” and “What do you need from me to help you achieve your goal(s)?” I have found success in using this method. It has allowed me to come from a place of servitude. The result is deep relationships naturally form for the good of all.

12. Curiosity and Great Questions

Learn to ask questions about them. One of the biggest secrets in developing relationships is taking the first few minutes of an interaction to ask questions. How is their family? What did they do this weekend? How are they feeling? Each answer allows you to learn more about them and build better questions for your next interaction, thus building a relationship where it shows you care.

13. Vulnerability

Authenticity and vulnerability are key to creating natural relationships with employees, partners and clients. As a manager or executive, the tendency is often to maintain a certain appearance or always be selling. In reality, relationships are built during the times you’re not working, so being your authentic self within the professional environment can help you create meaningful connections.

14. Being Yourself

The answer to the question is in the question: be yourself. People connect with people who they trust. People trust people when they truly know who they are. Being yourself, with the good and the bad, is the best way to establish a good relationship with people.