Developing Relationship Skills
post # 461 — November 7, 2007 — a Client Relations, Strategy and the Fat Smoker post
At a conference of leading management consulting firms last week, I led a discussion about the barriers to developing strong, deep relationships with clients — a â€œfat smokerâ€ strategy in the sense that we all know we should be good at it, but few of us are.
As we explored the topic, I took a poll on how many people thought relationship skills were â€œbornâ€ and how many thought they could be â€œmadeâ€ (i.e. developed.)
(Only) two-thirds of the audience thought they could be developed. However, very few firms said they had formal programs to help their people develop the interpersonal, social, political and emotional skills necessary to be good at relationships. As a rule, they depended either upon people developing these skills for themselves, or (if you were lucky) learning on the job by observing those ahead of you who were good at it.
The challenge was made even more difficult when it was pointed out that — ultimately — relationship skills are about values and attitudes, not personality characteristics and skills. If the discussion is about values, then it really is challenging to address the key questions:
- Are these born or can firms develop them in their people?
- If they can be developed by the organization, how?
- How did you learn to develop your relationship skills?
- Were you ever given any formal training that helped?
- What would you advise others that wanted to work at developing these skills?