At the heart of what we do – Better Business Relationships

What is at the heart of what we do – Better Business Relationships. Business relationships are at the heart of professional services – people buy people. Relationships are a key component of client service and often the source of competitive differentiation and real added value. Recently I presented a short session to a large group of property professionals where I told a series of stories and highlighted some key ideas from my latest book – Better Business Relationships.  This short video explores Better Business Relationships.

Difference and Diversity

We know that we are all different. We have different personalities, backgrounds and educations. We are influenced by our generation, gender, race, religion and our cultural upbringing. But we have cognitive differences too – we perceive, filter, assimilate and process information differently.

I focused on differences in leadership by remembering a partnership which had two leaders with totally different styles. One was a visionary with a focus on people, the other was more pragmatic (some call these people integrators) and analytical with a focus on the task at hand. The whole was greater than the sum of the parts.

I shared my simple model of personality which shows the difference between dogs (motivated by affiliation), cats (motivated by achievement) and bears (motivated by power and control). There’s more about personality tests here. We also talked about perception – how some people may be real pussycats but are perceived as and feared by others who see them as ferocious lions.

Adaptation and Learning

Researchers indicate that we have a natural rapport with just 10-30% of the people we meet – so we have to learn how to recognise difference and adapt our approach. The average attention span is just eight seconds (shorter than a goldfish’s which is nine seconds). 70-90% of our behaviour is habit. It usually takes six attempts to change and just 33% of people are adaptors and navigate change easily. There are at least four different ways in which we learn. 88% of change initiatives fail.

I told a story about an extremely successful professional I had known who was the epitome of calm, cool professionalism. What I didn’t know, however, was that he had a fear of public speaking – glossophobia – which is experienced by three quarters of people. As a result of failing to recognise this fear and him trying to rise above his fear he experienced acute stress.

We also talked about the power of role models. And whilst we want the younger generation to learn quickly from the older generation, they have a different outlook and approach which we should value and avoid trying to create clones. Millennials are explored further here.

There are lots of good books about change management. One of my favourites is by Chip and Dan Heath which suggests that you need three ingredients for successful change:

  1. A rational reason
  2. An emotional motivation
  3. One small, simple step to start the change process


The older generation often prefers using the phone. The younger generation have grown up in the world of email and prefers digital methods such as texts, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Telegram and social media.

Whilst there are strengths in all forms of communication, the development of business relationships relies on telephone and face-to-face communication. A HBR report showed that a face-to-face request is 34 times more likely to be accepted.

I reported on a storytelling course I had run for a firm of lawyers in Dublin and shared one of the stories that remained vivid. Stories are 22 times more likely to be remembered than facts and figures. Demonstrating empathy (a key component of emotional intelligence), creating an emotional connection and generating rich visualisations are key elements of successful storytelling. When the self-referencing effect occurs – when we see ourselves in the story – dopamine is released, neural coupling takes place and memories are stronger.

Relationships and conflict management

We talked about how trust is so important to relationships and the attributes of a trusted advisor. I pointed out that difference, disagreement and difficulty is a natural part of all relationships and conflict management is one of the six core relationship management skills. Research indicates that managers spend at least 25% of their time dealing with conflict.

I recalled a situation where I had experienced difficulties with a person who then went on to take the leadership role of one of my client organisations. I arranged a short meeting and took something along that I hoped would be valuable to him – demonstrating insight selling.

Internal relationships

Some people don’t think that emotions have a role in business relationships – but they underpin all relationships. Researchers have found that where the part of the brain that processes emotions are damaged, decision-making is impossible. Yet only 35% of people tested are able to accurately identify their emotions as they happen. Tested along 33 other important skills, Emotional Intelligence (EI or EQ) subsumes the majority of them. EQ also accounts for 58% of performance in all types of jobs and is the single biggest predictor in the workplace and the strongest driver of leadership and personal excellence. 90% of high performers are also high in EQ.

Emotional commitment is four times stronger than rational commitment and a company with high employee commitment delivers two to three times more shareholder value.

I told a short story titled “Pearl’s a singer” about a challenging situation where I labelled a person in an internal relationship as “difficult”. I resolved the problem and avoided further conflict simply by thinking about things differently. I used a technique called reframing.

We also considered those stubborn people who insist on doing things their way (I call this the Frank Sinatra syndrome). They fail to delegate effectively which reduces the chances of their people to develop into future leaders.

External relationships

Touching on the value of key account management, we saw how despite delivering a good service, important business relationships can be lost due to complacency.

I also talked about how even in really close and well-established relationships (I recalled one client who had even been the Godfather to his client’s children) there is value in having an external person involved to bring a fresh impetus. This is one of the principles discovered by Robert Cialdini and other psychologist in their book “The small big – small changes that spark big influence”.

I touched on research on personal relationships where John Gottman discovered the four markers of relationship failure with 93% accuracy: Criticism, Defensiveness, Contempt and Stonewalling.

The DACRIE™ model is explored further in the book “Better Business Relationships” which was published by Bloomsbury in September 2018.