Business Relationships

If there ever was a year that taught us important business lessons, that’s definitely 2020. Lessons from the importance of managing your cashflow properly, to using the full potential of technology, to diversifying your supplier base, to decreasing cost and increasing operational efficiency, to finding new revenue sources and to understanding how the buying habits of your clients can change rapidly – are all common lessons which many business have faced and in many instances learned from. However beyond the lessons already outlined, there are what I call “core lessons” which I believe are the cornerstone of what businesses should have learnt in 2020. These are:

  1. 2020 has taught us more than ever that business and work relationships should be your number one priority. No matter the size of the business, the relationships you have with your customers, employees and suppliers is everything. Without having valued relationships, your business has nothing to build on and no real foundation for the future. After all trust is key to any successful business. During a crisis customers, employees and suppliers are going to value a trusted relationship more than ever. If your business has not developed trusted partnerships prior to a health or business emergency like a pandemic, you cannot really start one once an emergency has occurred. So taking steps in advance to build and maintain high levels of trust with each of your customers, employees and suppliers is of pivotal importance.
  2. Create a business culture that is agile. Rather than rely on what worked in the past, adopt a mindset that is flexible and prepared for any circumstance or crisis. Nimble organizations that can adapt quickly while retaining their core values, are the ones who will be able to weather any storm. Staying strong and building in more flexibility in all facets of your business will give you the advantage during challenging times. Such an agile business culture will help you embrace innovation and include it in your business model. Being flexible and accepting of new and different ways to do things is essential. Companies that react and adapt quickly, rather than in terms of weeks or months, will be the successful ones. Those businesses that don’t could face grave consequences.

Hence in a nutshell, I strongly believe that your focus as a business leaders in 2021 is to make sure that you create a business culture and a business model that are built on trust and appreciation throughout your team and other stakeholders.Strong relationships are still the main ingredient that will make your business flourish. Which brings about the next question. What skills do you need to make sure that as a business leader you can build these strong relationships? My answer to that is: Emotional Intelligence.

However, something I am constantly experiencing is that while the term “Emotional Intelligence” is constantly gaining popularity, more persons believe that the concept of Emotional Intelligence equates to being “nice.” Well, it doesn’t. Many times I see the wrong concept of “niceness” extended to avoiding confrontations at all costs. But, why would you want to work on your emotional intelligence if it just means that you’re going to be walked all over? In fact, being skilled in each of the four components of emotional intelligence (self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management) would allow you to have confrontations when you need to, and to do it more strategically and productively.

Emotional intelligence provides a middle way between extreme behaviours and reactions. Strong self-awareness and self-management would let you control your initial impulses or any anxiety you might have around facing certain situations. On the other hand, a highly developed sense of empathy — that’s part of social awareness — would allow you see the situation from the other person’s point of view, so you could present your argument to them in a way that makes them feel heard, or that speaks to their own interests.

Leaders who develop their emotional intelligence more deliberately will be more attuned to all of the mentioned four components of emotional intelligence, in all the relationships they encounter. Believing that emotional intelligence simply means being “nice” prevents leaders from having powerful, productive conversations that build up their ability to influence and lead in all their relationships.

It has been a very difficult 2020 for all of us and, unfortunately, we cannot predict the future. So, the next few months are going to be a continuing challenge for businesses. However 2020 has provided us with a myriad of business lessons and learning from the pandemic’s impact on our lives and our businesses, can serve as a great lesson as we go forward to adapt and accept change, rather than wishing nostalgically that we could return to business as usual as we knew it before the pandemic……and if there is a lesson that 2020 has taught us, that is that businesses need strong relationships to thrive and the skills of emotional intelligence are pivotal to build and maintain such relationships.

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