It’s Valentine’s Day and love is in the air. It may seem odd to talk about love in a business setting but when we love our clients, our colleagues, our teams, and our partners and they love us back, it makes work not seem like work.  What I am really talking about is healthy and strong work relationships, and the best way to build authentic connections is by showing those most critical to your success, some love. 

What does building a professional relationship look like? 

Genuinely Care About, Be Interested in Others and Show It. 

Invest the time to learn about the people you work with or do business with. What are their hobbies? What matters to them at work and in life? Listen carefully when the boss tells you about the latest adventure of their puppy, or when a client talks about their vacation or their children. When they tell you these stories, take note–you will understand what makes them tick, what brings them joy and what frustrates them. Be careful not to make it an inquisition. Be sincere. And remember details so you can follow up with them. How is your grandson?  

Approach every professional relationship from the perspective of the Prism of Value. What can you do to help them advance or what can you do to help them avoid or reduce frustration or a challenge?

Be Honest Always and Humanely. 

Whether you are working within an organization or outside in a consulting role, be truthful and honest. That means sometimes having to deliver bad news. You made a mistake. Own it and what you are going to do to make it right. Something they wanted isn’t going to happen. Or a bad situation isn’t going away any time soon. Give them the news but also provide solutions. And sometimes it means simply listening when something has gone wrong for a client, team member or partner.  Listen to understand and keep the conversation focused on them and not you.  Don’t fall into the trap of “yes I understand you because the same thing happened to me,” because now you are making it about you. 

Think of work relationships as a Long-Term Investment. 

Good work relationships are a gift that keeps giving. Referrals, friendship, support. When weighing particular actions, consider the impact on the other party. Sometimes a short-term win may not be good. Recently we were working on a project that had multiple partners. Three of the four partners were ready to push the project forward but the fourth one needed more time. We all decided to wait because, while it delayed our work, we took the long view that the relationship with that partner was more important.

Don’t Let Problems Fester.

Keeping frustrations with others inside is the silent killer of relationships. Maybe a business partner did something that embarrassed you. Or a colleague said something hurtful. If you decide not to say anything, unless you are ready to let go of your anger or hurt, those negative emotions will shape the relationship going forward. And every time something goes wrong, it will only make your feelings worse. Share your feelings calmly and firmly. 

Valentine’s Day is a celebration of relationships, and relationships are the glue that connects us and makes our world stronger. Tend to them. And think about how you can show people that you care not just this month but all year long. 

And check this post out for some tips on how to neutralize tough situations