The core principles of most mutually enjoyable human interactions are pretty simple:
- Be nice
- Practise respect
- Be genuinely interested in the other person
- Show gratitude
Generally, extending basic courtesies to others will result in those same decencies being mirrored back two fold. In other words, the type of energy you project in your interactions (positive or negative) tends to attract like energy to you.
Engaging in unethical business practices, being unkind to your competitors, disrespecting business partners, stakeholders, colleagues and staff or even failing to be considerate of the needs and interests of others is the fastest way to permanently damage your business relationships and compromise the success of your organisation.
Have you recently launched your startup, and find that you are scratching your head daily about why you cannot seem to make any headway with certain stakeholders? Maybe you are finding it difficult to form strong and lasting relationships with partners, colleagues or staff.
The answer could lie in taking a good hard look in the mirror and reflecting on your interpersonal skills.
Don’t Be That Guy
What many business owners do not place enough emphasis on is the principle in life that kindness often gets you further than force.
Many CEOs, managing directors, founders, startup owners and leaders of industry spend years labouring under the misapprehension that their degree of brusqueness is directly correlated with their level of success. They are quick to temper, pace around the office frenetically, type franticly, voice views loudly and aggressively, express themselves at meetings with impatience and frustration, fail to respond to emails and do not set aside time to listen to colleagues or employee concerns.
The idea is that by cultivating a discourteous business culture, others will assume these leaders are wildly successful and avoid disturbing their workflow unless absolutely necessary. But this strategy exposes more about the personalities of individuals than anyone would like to think, as the root cause of bad behaviour always reveals its true nature:
Behavioural inflation in the form of rude or aggressive mannerisms, putting others down, having unrealistic expectations of business partners, staff or colleagues and being ‘too busy to be polite’ are all symptoms of poorly-developed interpersonal skills, low emotional intelligence and deep-seated insecurities. These traits are often the hallmarks of people who are not coping in their business or personal life.
Unfortunately, many new entrepreneurs and startup owners believe that imitating the bad habits of successful leaders, through hostile behaviour, manipulation and tough business negotiation, will garner automatic respect among their peers and professional networks. In reality, this is an instant formula for failure.
Given their vastly different leadership and interpersonal styles, for example, would you rather collaborate with Richard Branson or Donald Trump?
Rather than solidifying your status as a negotiation ninja, your reputation for being abrasive and disingenuous will solidify the resolve of key stakeholders never to deal with you. Being quietly convincing, genuinely respectful, polite and adding real value, on the other hand, wins lasting and mutually beneficial business relationships.
Some Hard & Fast Rules For Keeping Your Business Bridges Un-Burned
Successful startups are built on the back of strong networks.
When it comes to establishing good business practice and genuine business relationships – it’s all in the detail. If you recognise any of the above leadership qualities in your current business interactions, the good news is that it is possible to instantly improve the way others respond to you, and your business, with some small behavioural tweaks.
1. Never inconvenience others by imposing a short deadline
Wherever possible, try not to impose tight deadlines.
Instead ask that the action to be completed “at a time that is convenient to” the person you are making the request of. It shows you respect their ability to prioritise your request, your awareness of their existing workload as well as your appreciation of their limited time and resources.
While this approach typically requires less from others, it demands more from you. The onus is on you to exercise leadership by closely managing business timeframes so that more buffer time is factored into project deadlines.
When a looming deadline is genuinely critical, and may require turnaround within the hour or COB, that person will be happy to help you by prioritising your task over their BAU work.
2. Never impose false deadlines
A false deadline occurs when you tell someone that a particular item is extremely urgent, and requires their immediate attention, but in reality that urgency does not exist.
Putting people under pressure to perform, particularly in instances where no real urgency exists, is a surefire way to build resentment and destroy productive working relationships. This is compounded in situations where you may have imposed the tight timeframe deliberately to allow yourself more time to look over the finished product before sending it off.
Always give someone (whether they are a business partner, peer or staff member) as much time as possible to complete a task. If you must impose a deadline, make sure it is a real one.
If priorities change during the day, you should let that person know that the urgency has dropped away from their task. This allows them to take a breath, ease their foot off the accelerator, and do a more thorough job.
3. Look with your eyes and not your mouth
When arranging a meeting, avoid wasting the time of invitees.
Everyone hates being required to exchange dozens of emails to set up a convenient time and date, especially if the date must be re-negotiated several times before being set. This approach is unnecessarily disorganised and frustrating for everyone involved. Importantly, it leaves people external to your organisation with the distinct impression that meeting you is more trouble than it is worth.
A better approach is to look at your calendar and determine when you are, and when you are not, available before sending out the invite. Let the other participant know your availability either via calendar invite, email or over the phone.
If they have all relevant information they are in a better position to fit in with you and, in one or two exchanges, the time and date can be locked in.
4. Never ask someone to repeat themselves
Never ask for information to be repeated, or an email to be re-sent, if you already have that information somewhere where you can readily access it. For example, requesting contact details or a phone number, if that person has already sent it to you in a prior exchange.
Everyone hates repeating themselves. It is an unequivocal waste of time, especially at high-levels. It sends a strong message that you are unreliable, disorganised and do not pay attention to detail – qualities that smart people in business shy away from.
Accept that your time is no more precious than anyone else’s.
If you need to spend 5-10 minutes looking through your emails, or sorting papers on your desk, rather than eating into someone else’s day by requesting that the information be re-sent, then do it!
5. Hold up your end of the deal!
If you commit to something in a business transaction, stick to your side of the bargain.
Do not assume that the other person will forget what you have agreed. If they have fulfilled their obligations, fulfil yours without an attempt to underhandedly change the goal posts.
Doing anything less than what was agreed leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth and people will be reluctant to do business with you in the future.
6. Drop the attitude of expectation and be humble
If someone does you a favour, let them know you appreciate it.
For example, if they have introduced you to an important business contact, agreed to partner with your business, or even agreed to write a guest post for your business blog. Always ensure you recognise the time, effort and value that person has added to your business by showing your appreciation.
If someone’s actions have produced a particularly positive outcome for you, make sure you let them know! This generates feelings of goodwill and mutual support and they will be more likely to collaborate with you again. Failing to do so breeds bitterness and mistrust – they will wonder why you kept them in the dark by not passing on the good news they played an important role in achieving.
One of the quickest and easiest ways to make yourself a likeable person in business is to go above and beyond what people expect of you. It can be as simple as a short but meaningful email saying thank you and mentioning how much you value their input, time and support.
Positive emotions form strong foundations for lasting working relationships.
At The End Of The Day
There is no excuse for being discourteous to others.
A fledgling startup cannot afford to alienate potential business partners with a leader who does not value good business practices and basic professional etiquette. Experienced business owners and entrepreneurs associate these habits with unexperienced leaders who are masking inner vulnerabilities, a lack of subject-matter knowledge and an inability to cope in complex business or social situations.
Rather than moving you forward in your startup journey, poor professional behaviour always has a way of holding you, and your business, back.
So who do you want to be in business? A dealmaker of a dealbreaker?
What personal or professional qualities have you come across in your startup journey that you admire? Which ones do you dislike? Let us know in the comments section below!