The Association for the Capital Projects Engineering & Construction Community.

Relationships: A Crucial Element to Success

September 19, 2012

By Michael R. Carlson, P.E., ECC Future Leader

Whether it is with our family, friends, coworkers, our suppliers of goods, materials, and/or services, our business partners, or our customers, all of us are engaged in relationships. When it comes to being successful ,do we all recognize how crucial these relationships are? Do we all know how to start a relationship from scratch, how to make a new one, either by happenstance or by intent? All too many clichés, techniques, and tips have been applied to creating relationships….but what successful relationship creation really comes down to is quite simple.

My personal success in business relationships is all based on what I learned from building friendships. If you can build a friendship, you are already equipped to build a successful business relationship. It starts simple, with an introduction and a handshake. The opportunities to start relationships are endless, existing at work, home, social engagements, kids’ events, civic organizations, and especially conferences such as the ECC. In some situations, the introductions are requisite or pre-planned, but in many other opportunities, we must rely upon ourselves to be the initial catalyst.

The introduction is just the beginning, and truly parallels that first time you met your spouse or significant other, or that first time meeting your best friend back in your childhood. You must have a genuine desire to get to know that other person. What do you each like, what do you each do, what has shaped your lives, personalities, principles, values, and beliefs? Over many repeated interactions, we begin to share more and more, starting with the little things we are all comfortable sharing with a perfect stranger, progressing over time to sharing things that are near and dear to our hearts. During this relationship nurturing, your intentions must remain genuine, treating one another as individuals, as you would a new friend, never as sales targets or prospects with the attitude “What’s in it for me?”. The expectation is to get very little in return, other than mutual admiration and respect. In time, with energy and true engagement, you will build lasting relationships. Much like you would never ask a prospective friend you just met to help you move your furniture (like the Seinfeld episode, in which Keith Hernandez asked Jerry to help move his furniture), you seldom request or expect extraordinary “favors” from a new relationship.

In our 2012 Future Leaders session at the conference, a remark was made by Steve Dedman, (which I will paraphrase), “These personal relationships you will build at the ECC today will be the foundation of the professional business relationships your organizations share in the future”. Over time, with much energy and sincerity, the relationships we create and nurture will lead to success, in whatever the endeavor might be. What results is a relationship in which it’s no longer give and take…it is share and receive, where candid and open conversations lead to productive and successful engagements and endeavors for all persons and organizations involved. When our energy is focused on building the relationship, it takes much less energy to achieve success in the future. This is how individuals, teams, and organizations succeed, in business and in life.