Using Interpersonal Skills to Build Relationships

By Ron Price

No matter what we want to accomplish in life, little gets done without the cooperation of others.  We interact with employees, employers, customers, suppliers, family members, friends and acquaintances.  All of these represent the myriad of relationships that make life meaningful and successful.

As leaders, interpersonal skills are critical to our success.  We need others to help us think clearly, get things done, and build productive, energizing connections.  It is interesting that many of us develop financial plans, operating plans, marketing plans, sales plans, and so on.  Yet, few of us take the time to create thoughtful relationship plans.  The result is often a loss of substantial, invisible value that would be realized if we were more intentional and strategic in building our networks of relationships.

How can we build intentional and strategic relationships more effectively?  According to Skip Hall, a master of recruiting during his 30-year NCAA football coaching career and 15-year business recruiting/coaching career, it begins with “The Power of Who.”  Skip reminds us that we already have a treasure trove of relationships waiting to be activated.  Skip practices the “four eyes” technique in looking for meaningful relationships.  He extends two fingers and explains that “your eyes meeting my eyes” is still the most potent relationship building technique today.

Of course, we can’t use the “four eyes” technique in every situation.  Justin Foster, a brilliant branding expert, explains the value of building a list of COINs, or “Circles of Influence”.  He recommends creating a spreadsheet of the people you know and then giving them two scores to determine their levels of influence.  The first score is the strength of your relationship, with the following scores:

1.    A close friend
2.    You are on a first-name basis
3.    Casual or business-only friendships
4.    People you have met
5.    People you know of but have not been introduced to yet

His second set of scores relates to each individual’s connections:

1.    National or global
2.    Local “connector”
3.    Locally well-known
4.    Strong networker
5.    Not enough data to know

Justin uses his “COINs” technique to become more intentional and strategic in building a strong network of relationships.
In her book, “How to Be A Power Connector: The 5 + 50 + 100 Rule For Turning Your Business Network into Profits,” Judy Robinett emphasizes building genuine, caring relationships.  She shares how investing richly in a few relationships has a profound impact on your effectiveness as a leader.  Her formula includes almost daily contact with the 5 most important relationships in your network, some type of interaction weekly with your top 50, and monthly contact with your top 100.  I’m very impressed with her clarity and discipline.  This book is rich in insights and systems for mastering interpersonal skills.  She emphasizes that all strong connections require three elements; people must know you, like you and trust you (and I would add that you must know, like and trust them also).  One of the greatest ways to nurture these elements is to take an active, genuine interest in others.  She writes, “Your goal is to create a streamlined group of 155 key relationships—people who share your values, with whom you will consistently connect, and to whom you will add value.”  

We all have varying degrees of natural talent in developing interpersonal skills.  Some of us, because of our natural behavioral styles, will cast wide nets and be known by many.  Others will have smaller, deeper networks of relationships.  Both can be successful.  The key is being intentional, caring and consistent in building relationships of mutual benefit, respect and support.  Why not start now to become more intentional, strategic, and systematic in building powerful connections that will reflect a new mastery of interpersonal skills?

For more on building interpersonal skills:

  • “Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success” by Adam M. Grant, PhD
  • “Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive” by Harvey B. MacKay
  • “The Go-Giver: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea” by Bob Burg & John David Mann