The Relationship Engine

Relationship EngineResearch shows high performance is really driven by the core business relationships people and companies have. The thing is, these relationships are difficult to measure and aren’t usually part of strategic planning. In his new book, The Relationship Engine: Connecting With the People Who Power Your Business, Ed Wallace – an expert on the human side of business – offers capability-building exercises and  assessments to measure the strength of both internal and external relationships. He offers a guide to bridge the generational gaps, ways to advance and sustain relationships, and structure and tools to transform every dedicated business leader into a purposeful master relationship-builder.

After reading the book, I connected with Ed with some questions. Here are some takeaways from that interview:

Q) What are the five principles at the foundation of strong working relationships and what makes them important?

There are Five Principles of the Relational Leader that form the foundation for strong relationships:

  1. Display Worthy Intent
  2. Care About People’s Goals, Passions, and Struggles
  3. Make Every Interaction Matter
  4. Value People Before Processes
  5. Connect Performance to a Purpose

The first is the most important, the Relationship Engine of the title, because the other four cannot be taken for granted or just allowed to happen as a matter of course. Relational Leaders must actively practice these principles towards others in business and in life. Once they’ve committed themselves to Worthy Intent, then they can put the second principle into effect and really get to know people, not just know about people. The next  two principles direct Relational Leaders to make sure all their interactions, however minor, matter and make them about the relationship. For instance, a deal isn’t about what goes in the contract. A deal is about the people making it. The final principle expands on the fourth to making a difference in the world and creating real meaning in it.

Q) What are “at-will relationships” and why do you believe they are the key to success in complex organizational structures? 

At-will relationships are discretionary relationships that business people need to deliver on their objectives. In today’s highly collaborative, matrixed organizations, teams are formed with limited operational budgets needing to rely on subject matter experts in various functional areas to get projects done. These subject matter experts are “at-will” in their commitment to supporting these team since most if not all of their performance objectives are tied to specific functional deliverables and not in service to the teams. Relational Leaders focus on extending their teams’ relationships first to the At-will subject matter experts that will benefit their objectives.

Q) How can people sustain the professional relationships they make and even develop them from contacts to productive members of a network?

Relational Leaders are able to sustain and grow their professional relationships by prioritizing their most important relationships connected to their performance objectives rather than by collecting hundreds of “ethereal relationships” in tools like LinkedIn. It comes down to following these steps:

  1. Think about your goals.
  2. Identify a real person who you need to launch or advance a relationship with in support of that goal.
  3. Learn about their goals, passions and struggles.
  4. Develop a strategy for the relationship that benefits both parties.

Therefore, it’s not just about forming a network, but connecting relationships to performance.


William Flamme

William Flamme

William Flamme is ExecuNet's Marketing Content Manager, where he is responsible for developing engaging career, job search, and leadership insight and delivering executive-level content across the various properties under the ExecuNet brand. Prior to joining ExecuNet in 2008, Will earned a master's degree in education and taught fifth grade and sixth grade. As a teacher, he deepened his appreciation for the written word and mastered skills necessary for managing writers who sometimes view deadlines as homework.

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