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The business world is unique in how the people within it relate to each other. Building trust is always essential. Yet the goals, actions and events that drive strong professional connections aren’t necessarily the same ones you rely on to forge and deepen personal relationships. Sound confusing?

Luckily, certain aspects of the two endeavors do overlap. With a little practice and some simple tweaks, you can leverage the relationship-building skills you’ve mastered in your private life while you’re at work—not only to strengthen critical partnerships, but also to nurture new customer and client relationships. 

To learn how, explore the different ways these members of Forbes Coaches Council recommend leaders prepare to build the most meaningful business relationships.

1. Network With Those Who Share Your Values

Meaningful relationships create opportunities to elevate your network. Studies show that purchasing from a local company recirculates wealth back into your community at a higher rate than purchasing from a large corporation does. The same is true of your network. Focus on building and nurturing relationships with businesses who share values similar to your own. In short, a rising tide raises all boats. – Hannah Koenig, HANNAH KONEIG INTERNATIONAL LLC

2. Extend Your Curiosity Beyond Work Identity

Strong relationships uplift people and outcomes. In building them, we need to be open to knowing people for who they are, not just who they are at work. Leaders, be curious beyond work identity; get to know people for their humanness, and share yours. When we invite people to bring their whole selves to work, we learn and grow with them. We are dynamic partners in shared interests and goals. – Lisa Gick, [curious] leadership + change agency

3. Engage In Active Listening

We are often so worried about getting out our next brilliant point that we sometimes forget the value of active listening. Relationships must be a 50-50 investment by both parties, and a way to show you value others is to listen at least as much as you speak. Active listening requires action, such as exhibiting positive body language and expressing acknowledgment and encouragement. – Daniel Elder, TBS CenTex Coaching

4. Work On Creating An Instant Bond

When building relationships in the business world, time is not a luxury to be had. Mastering the skill of creating an instant bond is critical if you want to have a shot at continuing the relationship. Leaders should do their homework by learning as much as possible about the other person before the meeting. Discovering tidbits about their priorities, style and values will give you an edge. – Karan Rhodes, Shockingly Different Leadership


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


5. Focus More On Their Interests

To accelerate the building of trust, it is imperative that you focus more on their interests than on yours. This solidifies the foundation of your relationship, ensuring that it is not based on self-serving attitudes and interests. – Edyta Pacuk, MarchFifteen Consulting Inc.

6. Demonstrate Humility To Deepen Understanding

Be humble. This means, first, being honest with yourself. Then, demonstrate your unique ability to listen to others’ points of view with the intention of understanding them, as opposed to listening only to respond. Taking the time to really listen to others is hard, but also demonstrable to them. They will observe the behavior in a positive way and trust you more as the relationship develops. – Jorge Gutierrez, BMOC Group

7. Offer Access To The Human Inside The Leader

Building relationships with clients and people within your organization today requires offering access to open discussions about who you are as a leader, rather than talking about what you have accomplished as a leader. People seek connection with the organization’s human voice prior to the delivery of a solution. Once an authentic relationship is established with the “who,” the “what” follows seamlessly. – Reena Sharma, Agilis Executive Consulting

8. Invest In Your Own Trustworthiness Every Day

Meaningful relationships, personal and professional, are always based on trust, and trust is only created by offering truth and value over time. Smart leaders know that people buy, hire or refer in proportion to the amount of trust they’ve created. Daily investments in being trustworthy pay off. – Darcy Eikenberg, PCC, Red Cape Revolution

9. Accept Your Weaknesses And Leverage Your Strengths

Unlike in their personal relationships, people tend to be more guarded professionally for fear of not being viewed in a positive light. People at work spend a lot of time hiding weaknesses and mistakes rather than developing and leveraging talents and strengths. Great relationships accept vulnerabilities, which is why leaders need to be transparent about their own weaknesses: so that their team will do the same. – Shane Green, SGEi

10. Shape Industry Connections In Mindful Ways

Consider standards and common practices in your particular industry, and then follow suit. Some industries depend on referrals based on live social interactions, such as weekend gatherings, for example. Other industries connect via different social media. Learn which platform is most relevant, then selectively share and comment to stay connected. Be mindful about what you say—work friends are not the same as your college roommates! – Julie Kantor, PhD, JP Kantor Consulting

11. Show Appreciation Through Consistency

One of the most overlooked aspects of building meaningful relationships is consistency. As the world continues to fly by, we make time for that which we value. If we value relationships in the business world, we have to be consistent in those relationships. Your consistency will show your partners in the relationship their own value and bring more meaning to the relationship itself. – Jon Dwoskin, The Jon Dwoskin Experience

12. Learn What Makes People Tick At Work And At Home

Lines separating home and work are blurred now. That means you need to know your team in both arenas. Learning what makes them tick (their “why”) without crossing the line is essential. More than ever before, it’s important that their values align with the company’s greater shared purpose in today’s workplace culture. Bottom line, and no secret here: Get to know your team. That creates meaning, in and of itself. – Shelley Smith, Premier Rapport

13. Prime Yourself With A Smile

Walk through the corridor of your workplace with a smile for a day. You’ll see that many people will meet you in a friendlier manner or return your beaming smile. Why? Because their mirror neurons react to your smile, spreading joy. Thanks to the reciprocity principle, it makes the person opposite you feel the need to smile at you as well, so as not to appear rude. – Cristian Hofmann, Empowering Executives | SUPERGROUP LTD

14. Receive Frank Words As Valuable Feedback

Business relationships often involve a different level of frankness than we experience in personal relationships. Leaders can prepare for this by recognizing that words that may seem harsh can come from a positive intent. Don’t take it as a personal attack. Instead, view it as feedback that can create growth. – Tonya Echols, Vigere

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