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Building Collaborative Relationships

Building Collaborative Relationship is the ability to develop, maintain, and strengthen partnerships with others inside or outside of the organization who can provide information, assistance and support.
An employee demonstrating this competency:
  • Asks about the other person's personal experience, interests, and family
  • Asks questions to identify shared interests, experiences or other common ground
  • Shows an interest in what others have to say; acknowledges their perspectives and ideas
  • Recognizes the business concerns and perspectives of others
  • Expresses gratitude and appreciation to others who have provided information, assistance or support
  • Takes time to get to know co-workers, to build rapport and establish a common bond
  • Tries to build relationships with people whose assistance, cooperation and support may be needed
  • Provides assistance, information and support to others, to build a basis for future reciprocity
Importance of this Competency
This competency is important for people whose effectiveness depends on building partnerships with others inside or outside of the organization. Relationship building is important in large organizations, especially politicized ones, in which people are reluctant to lend support to others whom they do not know and trust. This competency is also very important to sales representatives who need to make repeated sales to the same individual or organization and who need to make sales requiring the support of many players.

Relationship building is closely related to two other competencies: Interpersonal Effectiveness and Influencing Others.
General Considerations in Developing this Competency
To develop this competency, you must (1) realize its importance, (2) practice the behaviors, and (3) develop relevant skills. To appreciate the importance of this competency, consult readings, especially ones on power and influence. It is also helpful to talk to people skilled at relationship building. Practicing the behaviors requires setting up meetings with people who can provide assistance or support. The relevant skills involve listening, influencing, and negotiating. Thus, in addition to reviewing the suggestions below for this competency, you may want to review the sections on two other competencies: Interpersonal Effectiveness and Influencing Others.
Practicing this Competency
Make a chart to use to assess and track your relationship building. In one column, list the names of people with whom it is important for you to build good relationships. In the second column, note the type of information or assistance each person can potentially provide. In the third column write a number assessing the current state of that relationship:
-1 = negative relationship characterized by hostility and distrust
0 = no relationship – you don’t know the other person
1 = acquaintance: you know the person and are cordial to each other
2 = positive relationship: you have provided significant assistance or support to each other
3 = strong positive relationship: besides providing significant assistance to each other, you see each other socially and have full trust in each other.

Target several persons with whom you would like to establish a better working relationship. Set up an informal meeting with each person, in which you:
  • Take time to develop rapport, by sharing information about personal interests and family activities
  • Ask about the other person’s business objectives and concerns
  • Show interest and concern for what the other person is experiencing
  • Suggest ways that you may be able to help support this person
Think of everyone who has provided assistance or support to you over the past month or two. Write a note to each person expressing your appreciation.

Explain some of your business goals and interests to several people with whom you have a relationship and ask these people who else you might speak with to help further your goals. Set up meetings with these individuals and begin the process of relationship building.
Obtaining Feedback
After a unit meeting to establish focus or develop a plan, conduct and exercise to "pro/con" the meeting. on a flip chart draw a vertical line and write "Pro" and "Con" at the top of each column. First ask people what went well. Capture responses in the "Pro" column. Then ask what could have been done better. Capture responses in the "Con" column.

Before a unit meeting to establish focus or develop a plan, review your agenda and planned process with someone whose judgement you respect. Ask for suggestions. After the meeting, ask a participant for feedback about your proess and facilitation.
Learning from Experts
Interview several individuals who are skilled at relationships. Ask them to talk about several relationships they have established with co-workers, vendors, or customers, and to describe:
  • How they initially established the relationship
  • What they have done to maintain the relationship
  • How they have helped the other person
  • How the other person has helped them
  • What approaches have been most effective for them in building business relationships
Coaching Suggestions for Managers
If you are coaching someone who is trying to develop the compentency, you can:
  • Model the process, by bringing this person to meetings you have set up to maintain a business relationship or to meetings you have set up to develop new business relationships
  • Arrange for the person to meet and attempt to build relationships with people with whom you have already developed relationships
  • Ask the person to meet with you after a relationship building meeting to discuss what happened and to provide suggestions
  • Observe and provide feedback on the person’s relationship building activities
Sample Development Goals
By January 15, I will interview Curt Bond about his experiences in relationship building.

By February 10, I will read Part III of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey.

By March 1, I will set up meetings with Mary Rainmaker, Bud Senter, and Joan Blocker to discuss goals and perspectives and establish working relationships.


Breakthrough Teams for Breakneck Times: Unlocking the Genius of Creative Collaboration, by Lisa K. Gundry & Laurie Lamantia. Chicago, IL: Dearborn Trade Publishing, 2001.

Clients for Life: How Great Professionals Develop Breakthrough Relationships, by Jagdish Sheth & Andrew Sobel. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Ltd., 2000. 

Everyone Is a Customer: A Proven Method for Measuring the Value of Every Relationship in the Era of Collaborative Business, by Jeffrey Shuman & Janice Twombly. Chicago, IL: Dearborn Trade Publishing, 2002.

Influence Without Authority, by Allan Cohen and David Bradford. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2005.

Is Your “Net” Working? A Complete Guide to Building Contacts and Career Visibility, by Anne Boe & Bettie Youngs. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1989.

PowerSkills: Building Top-Level Relationships for Bottom-Line Results, by James P. Masciarelli. Gloucestor, MA: Nimbus Press, 2000.

The Collaboration Challenge, by James E. Austin, John C. Whitehead, & Frances Hesselbein. New York, NY: Jossey-Bass, 2000.

The Networking Survival Guide: Get the Success You Want By Tapping Into the People You Know, by Diane Darling. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2003.

The Power of Partnership: The Seven Relationships that Will Change Your Life, by Riane Eisler. Novato, CA: New World Library, 2003.

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Ltd., 2005. 


How to Build High-Performance Teams. American Management Association. Tel. 800 250-5308. http://www.amaselfstudy.org/course.cfm?isbn=9780761213758

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey.  Audio CD. Available at www.amazon.com



Building Better Work Relationships: New Techniques for Results-oriented Communication. Three days. American Management Association. Tel. 877 566-9441. www.amanet.org/seminars/seminar.cfm?BaseSemNo=02235

Building Trust Under Pressure : The Basic Principles.  One day. AchieveGlobal. Tel. -800-566-0630. http://www.achieveglobal.com/events/?EventID=2534

Leadership and Teamwork. Three days. The Par Group. Tel. 800 247-7188. http://www.thepargroup.com/programs_leadershipTeamwork.html


See Appendix