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11 Tips To Help Leaders Build Stronger Business Relationships

By News Creatives Authors , in Leadership , at September 23, 2021

Most people follow some basic, tried-and-true best practices to build meaningful relationships in their personal lives. However, building relationships in the business world requires one to navigate a different realm of objectives and unspoken rules. 

If you’re a leader trying to connect with others in the world of business, it’s helpful to understand the unique norms involved in building such connections. Here, 11 members of Forbes Coaches Council weigh in on the differences between building personal bonds and business relationships. See their advice for successfully forging the strong connections that will move your career and business forward.

1. Provide Value With No Conditions

In our personal lives, we build relationships with individuals based on the give-and-take nature of the relationship. In the business world, leaders are inundated with people wanting something from them. Providing value with no conditions or expectation of return builds business relationships. – Steve Steff, Transforming Leadership

2. Ask Curious, Open-Ended Questions

Ask curious, open-ended questions that reflect a genuine interest in the other while honoring the boundaries around what acceptable questions within the business context are: “What’s most important in your career?” “What things most energize you?” “Who have been your favorite leaders, and why?” Make sure you listen thoughtfully and then ask clarifying questions to show your genuine interest. – Joel M. Rothaizer, Clear Impact Consulting Group

3. Build Relationships Around Growth 

Everyone in any business needs to grow. Make it a habit to leave everyone better off by building relationships around growth. How can you help them grow? It could be by offering ideas, experiences you have had or acknowledging their way of being. Givers gain; it is that simple. – Linda Martin, Linda Martin Results

4. Be Vulnerable And Authentic Without Compromising Your Power

While trust, listening and two-way communication are common elements of relationships in any setting, especially in the business world, individuals on opposite sides of the relationship want to appear strong and fully in control at all times. Elements that can make a huge difference are displaying vulnerability and authenticity without compromising on the power equation between the two sides. – Gowri Ramani, Coach Lumen


Forbes Coaches Council is an invitation-only community for leading business and career coaches. Do I qualify?


5. Focus On Building Win-Win Relationships

In the business world, relationships are like currency. The more you have and the better their quality, the wealthier you are. What may be unique is that everyone has an agenda, even if my agenda is just to make a connection with you. Being driven by how relationship-building can be a win-win for both sides is a solid way to reach out. By doing so today, you may be fostering an advocate for tomorrow. – David Yudis, Potential Selves

6. Be Clear On The Intent And Purpose Of Engagement

Along with studying the culture of the organization, it’s most important to be 100% clear on the intent and purpose of engagement. This clarity is respectful of all involved parties. Transparency of intent creates safety (no hidden agendas or wasting of someone’s time) and an understanding of the correct parameters and rules for the relationship. – Lisa Marie Platske, Upside Thinking, Inc.

7. Leverage The Three Forms Of Empathy

Excellent leaders learn and use the three forms of empathy to build meaningful business relationships. The first kind, cognitive empathy, is understanding how others think and using the right language and mental models to connect with them. Emotional empathy is feeling and showing heartfelt concern, which creates rapport. Empathic concern is being motivated to take action to support and help others succeed. – Loren Margolis, Training & Leadership Success LLC

8. Be Culturally Fluent And Engage In A Timely Way

Being culturally fluent is key in business. Where a person is from, globally, may determine whether a relationship can be built once a transaction has occurred or if the proverbial “wining and dining” will be required to build a relationship before a business transaction can occur. Either way, for continued business success, the relationship needs to be strengthened with timely engagement. – Rakish Rana, The Clear Coach

9. Strive For Psychological Safety While Honoring Boundaries

There are many parallels between how we build personal relationships and how we build them in our business lives. One difference is where boundaries lie. People tend to be a bit more guarded at work, sharing less of their personal lives. As a leader, it’s important to strive for an environment where employees feel safe to bring their whole selves to work, but it’s also important to recognize and honor the boundaries they set. – Cheryl Czach, Cheryl Czach Coaching and Consulting, LLC

10. Be Genuinely Curious About People

What makes someone unique and special? What’s important to them? What stage of life are they in? What drives them? What frustrates them? What do they fear? How do they approach tasks? How do they react to conflict? The more you know about people, the better positioned you will be to build a bridge and connect with them. – Jim Livingstone, Northpoint

11. Understand That Business Relationships Are Tied To Money

In the business world, your relationships are tied to performance and money alike. That does not have to be a bad thing at all. I’ve learned the hard way too many times that I needed to gravitate toward people who were happy to refer us, to talk about us kindly and to actively get involved to help our business financially in these ways. Ensuring those people possess your same values and integrity cements the relationship. – John M. O’Connor, Career Pro Inc

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