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Management Practical tips for building relationships that are productive and last

Entrepreneur Zvi Brand argues relationships are our most important asset.

But they require more than a gregarious nature. They must be authentic. And they require a strategy to build and foster relationships, as well as routines and habits to keep the connections strong.

We can only manage so many relationships at once so we must be careful. “Although platforms like Facebook and Twitter allow us to amass thousands of friends and followers, the human brain is capable of keeping up with only a fraction of these relationships,” the chief executive officer of the customer relationship software Contactually writes in his book Success is in Your Sphere. Relationships range from five or so close friends and family to the 150 people you know who straddle the fence between friend and acquaintance.

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He points out that relationships decay over time as memories dull. “Every relationship is on an escalator going down. Over time, without taking the steps to build that relationship up, you’ll be back on the ground floor,” he writes.

He breaks down relationship marketing into seven key components, which can be remembered by the key word “capital,” built from the first letter of each step:

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  • Consistent execution: You want to break away from the urgency of other tasks and responsibilities to make sure you are consistently building and tending your relationships. He suggests relationship building be in your calendar, at times that work for your energy levels. “The frequency is up to you, as long as it’s regular and consistent,” he says. If you fall off the wagon and stop this habit, get back on track immediately by doing something – anything – that in a few seconds or minutes returns you to cultivating your relationships.
  • Aggregate: Leverage today’s technology, building a database that helps you to reach out consistently. Keep in mind the database is little more than a list of contacts. You must decide what goes into it. And that shouldn’t be limited to an e-mail address and work or home address. How many children does she have? Is he happy in his current job? What’s her favourite drink?
  • Prioritize: Not everyone will help you with your goals. “Who will, and how important are they?” he asks. Highlight those in your network who can help, basing that on your goals, from top to bottom. Don’t view it as binary, or see people as being able to help or not. Instead, organize them in tiers, ranking them according to their ability to assist.
  • Investigate: Collect intelligence on the people who are most important to you, extracting information from them on how they can help. When meeting people, take structured notes about them. But ask first: “Is it OK if I take notes? I want to ensure this is valuable for both of us.” The four points of information to collect, he says, are: the current state of your relationship; the current state of their business; next steps that will follow this interaction; and personal details.
  • Timely engagement: Set a cadence by which you will interact, according to their priority for you. You can send a note on a birthday or anniversary, pass along a relevant article, or connect when the person pops into your mind.
  • Add value: Make sure every contact is of value to them, not a nuisance.
  • Leverage: Sending five e-mails in a row to different relationships may be a better use of your time than just sending one. Creating templates for connecting can save time. Look for ways to increase the amount of output for time expended.

Relationships matter. How you carry them out also matters.

Quick Hits

  • Productivity expert Julie Morgenstern recommends an overflow day or block of time to tackle those tasks that keep popping up on your to-do list but never get done.
  • If someone is stubborn, is that good? What about if they are persistent? Consultant Kevin Eikenberry says the difference between stubbornness and persistence is timing, amount, context, and the perception of those viewing the behaviour.
  • If everyone at a company interviewing you for a job is new, be wary. Unless it’s a startup, executive recruiter Gerald Walsh says it is likely a sign of high turnover, probably caused by poor management or a toxic culture.
  • All good stories in presentations have a conflict and a point, says consultant Nick Morgan. This helps the audience better remember your message.
  • A review of studies on extroversion by University of Toronto postdoctorate fellow Michael Wilmot and three other academics found it is a clear advantage at work, notably in these four areas: motivation; positive emotions; higher performance across several dimensions; and greater skill in interpersonal relationships.

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