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Entrepreneurship Development: Relationship management (I)

So far, most of the business issues we have discussed in this Column, such as staffing, business planning, raising funds...

So far, most of the business issues we have discussed in this Column, such as staffing, business planning, raising funds, etc., have to do, significantly, with the technical skills of the entrepreneur. Unfortunately, as in most professions and careers, so much more emphasis is placed in schools and at work on our technical competence without a corresponding and matching attempt at developing our requisite relationship skills. This is both wrong and counterproductive because in the long run the entrepreneur and their business can suffer tremendously as a result of weak relationship management competency. Today, we will take up this very important life and business factor known as Relationship Management.

Generally speaking, two broad proficiencies are imperative to success in most spheres of our lives, viz: ‘technical’ and relationship skills. Here, we refer to technical skills as the abilities that we require to perform the intellectual tasks of our jobs. They are our analytical capacities in our specific professions as bankers, engineers, doctors, artists or whatever else. The technical skills of a Cost Accountant, for instance, will be everything to do with their savvy in identifying costs, analysing them and advising how best they can be eliminated or optimised. On the other hand, relationship skills are the totality of our social prowess required to establish, maintain and grow healthy and rewarding relationships with the diverse individuals and groups that we interact with daily. The relationship skills of a Lawyer, for instance, will have everything to do with their ability to engage positively with their colleagues, clients, associates, etc., while also delivering the expected technical results. The fundamentals of relationship management are best understood within the context and scope of the study of emotional intelligence.

It is scientifically established that our emotions precede our thoughts. In addition, our emotions can alter the way our brains normally function and drive our behaviours. And as hard as we might try, we are not always able to leave our emotions at home in the mornings or at the door when we get to work (and vice versa!) Consequently, detecting and managing our emotions and the emotions of others is crucial to achieving desired results. Emotional intelligence is all about our capacity to detect, recognize, understand and manage our emotions as well detect, recognize, understand and manage the emotions of others.

There are four elements of emotional intelligence viz: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management. Working to also improve our emotional intelligence through mastering its composite elements will help us achieve greater success and faster, too, than focusing entirely on building only our technical aptitudes.

Relationship management is about our interpersonal relationships with everyone we interact with as family, friends, colleagues, customers, etc. Our good relationship management skills are about our abilities to appreciate what other people may be going through and what we can do to enhance their productivity regardless. These skills will make it possible for us to inspire and positively influence others; It will make it possible for us to help others change for the better and grow. Good relationship management is about enhancing our potentials of getting others to willingly do the best they should or can.

The objective of relationship management is for you to enhance your capacity to deliver superlative results, at any given technical skill level, through relating and working with others better. Effective relationship management makes you aware of how best to work with others thereby enhancing your and others’ chances of success. Remember, employers and bosses do not like negative workers no matter how otherwise brilliant they may be; Customers do not like rude and dishonest service providers; Workers do not like toxic, difficult and uncooperative colleagues, etc. The emotionally intelligent individual, on the other hand, can build and nourish very healthy and fruitful relationships with others. They can have difficult conversations without hurting the feelings of others; They will always be honest; They will be loyal without being self-seeking; They can resolve conflicts, coach, motivate and guide others.

Obviously, there are various spheres of relationships that encapsulate us. We have to be aware of each; Who the stakeholders within each sphere are, their educational levels, biases, interests etc. Even within the same sphere, individuals do differ in their temperaments, ambitions, insecurities, etc. We should understand each individual and work out how best to manage our relationship with them.

The diagram below typifies simple and static relationship spheres comprising of only four groups of stakeholders. Obviously, our relationship universe is so much more dynamic and complex. Thankfully, the principles and methods of building healthy relationships is generally the same for most people in most spheres.

Today’s discussions have been just all about understanding what relationship management is and its weight in shaping our successes in life. The idea is to bring out the essence of the need for the entrepreneur to be thoughtful and deliberate in managing their relationships with others in ways that everyone wins. Next week in this column, we will discuss some specific ways that we can build and nurture our relationships with those within the various spheres around us.

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