Relationships (in business)

I had a very informative “informational interview” with an IU Kelley Alum, now a senior exec for a Big 3 (McK, Bain, BCG) firm. I asked him if he could name the single biggest business skill that has helped him reach where he is in a very short period, a skill that any aspiring leader (i.e. myself and most MBA students) needs to practice and master.

He said,”You have to be lucky, and know that you have been lucky”, followed by,”Relationships: building and maintaining relationships with your clients and customers.” As an example he said that when he started out at this company as an entry-level consultant, he worked on projects with Sr. Managers and Directors. Now the same folks on the client side are Sr. VP and C-Level executives. The ability to establish and flourish strong professional relationships facilitated his firm’s growth and his career growth.

Another IU Kelley Alum I had the privilege to speak with over the past summer, said something on the same lines. He became President of a $2B+ division at 40 or 41. According to him, he found people who trusted him and took a calculated risk of putting more and more responsibility on his shoulders. That was one of his ingredients for career growth.

Hard skills are important, and arguably a pre-requisite for career success, but as one very senior corporate executive, when asked to breakdown importance of soft and hard skills in corporate success, said the ratio is 85:15 for soft skills vs. hard skills, skills that contribute to you taking the next step and differentiating yourself among your very competent peers.

My previous business partner and I often discussed the importance of relationship building and relationship management during my 2 years of work with the telecom startup.

Which one or two skills do you think a business leader cannot do without?

UQ

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2 responses to “Relationships (in business)

  1. Lakshmi Swaminathan

    Good post. I totally agree. The higher up you go in any organization, the more imporant soft skills become for your overall success. According to me, two things that are most important for a leader are:
    1. People skills (includes communication, building relationship and positive influence)
    2. Ability to challenge the status quo

  2. I think if you break it down, relationships are the lifeblood within an organization and often the only true differentiator for providers (very few are able to maintain product leadership or operational efficiency over the long-run).

    After 17 years with large consulting firms, its the “relationship capital” that I had built, which allowed me to get my consulting off the ground.

    So, I agree it is about relationships, relationships, and relationships!

    Haris Ahmed
    Managing Partner
    Pragmatium Consulting Group Inc.

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