Why is building strong relationships important?
A strong relationship with your stakeholders will get you all of the below:
Transparency – strong relationships foster an open environment that allows both parties to share thoughts and ideas transparently. Transparency is important to ensure everyone is working on the right thing.
Collaboration – the more you know the people you work with, the easier it is to effectively collaborate (and to succeed.)
Constructive feedback – a good relationship encourages constructive criticism. Constructive criticism is critical to the product’s success and your career growth.
Alignment – it is 100x easier to excite a group of “friends” about your idea than a group of “colleagues.” Good friends have strong relationships, and they understand each other. Hence, they reach meaningful conclusions sooner.
Seamless communication – strong relationships empower seamless two-way communication. Good communication is central to driving impact.
Seven Tricks to Build Strong Relationships
Define specific ownership areas – identify critical stakeholders you work with regularly. Then, identify the different areas you’d collectively own. Finally, decide who does what and when. Make the definition thorough and as specific as possible. Do not leave room for ambiguity.
Have regular meetings – meet critical stakeholders at least once a week, and make the meetings count. Have a well defined structure and a pre-defined agenda. Allow time for both parties to share their thoughts and comments. Document action items and deliverables from each meeting and hold each other accountable. (I use this template for most of my meetings)
Be empathetic – once you know what they do, take the time to understand why they do it. Knowing the why will help you understand the person on a deeper level, which will enable impactful collaboration.
Build transparency – openly and proactively share what you’re working on and explain why you think it’s important. I meet with execs at least once a month to share what my team is working on, and I highlight why I think that is important to do right now. These discussions allow me: to share my thoughts, and to understand why the execs agree/disagree with my approach. The latter is a critical input that informs my long term strategy and helps me get exec alignment quickly.
Foster collaboration – make the stakeholders a part of the process. Involve them early and leverage their expertise to help identify the right problem, define the solution, and create the launch plan. The earlier and deeper their involvement, the stronger the buy-in, the higher the chances of success
Respect their time – make every interaction meaningful and impactful. Treat their time like you expect them to treat yours. Mutual respect is core for building a strong relationship.
Treat them like a person – know what they like, how they work, and their communication preferences. The more you know, the easier it is to strengthen the relationship.