How good at relationship building do you need to be to succeed? If you need to be good at relationship building, whom do you need to build relationships with? Your boss, employee, and customer?

In our technology-driven world, does relationship building really matter? In a zero unemployment world, does your “connect-ability” influence your success with employees? In a worst-case scenario, should you lose your job because you lack adequate people skills?

These are questions we don’t often ask ourselves, but they are foundational questions for success in our professional lives. We are often quick to shift the blame of our lack of success to bad leaders, inferior culture, crazy customers, weak markets, defective products, or the competition. Yes, these areas are a factor and frequently out of our control. But there is one factor that, while not a silver bullet for addressing the above, can and does increase your level of success across many disciplines. And it is one-hundred percent within your control. 

What is it? It’s your ability and willingness to build relationships characterized by trust, respect, and mutual value. Relationships like this allow you to accomplish your business priorities in the face of all kinds of headwinds. Without them, you’re dead in the water.

[Read “Two Ways to Build Trust and Respect Among Coworkers”]

Remember the Receptionist

Yesterday I learned of one executive who said they were rejected for a high paying job because they didn’t build a relationship with a receptionist. The receptionist? Yes! They had a job interview scheduled for 2:00 p.m. and got caught in traffic. Running late, they arrived for the interview thirty seconds before the interview was scheduled to begin. They rushed in, announced to the receptionist that they were present for their interview and were laser-focused on being on time. They aced the interview, had a superb resume, and were told, “No thank you.” Why? Because of how they treated the receptionist.

You see, the job they applied for was in pharmaceutical sales. Their primary role was to build a high-quality relationship with physicians and to present their products and patient benefits favorably. What this smart and talented professional neglected to consider was that in most overscheduled and overburdened doctors’ offices is a receptionist acting as a gatekeeper that determines whether sales reps ever meet the doctor. In this job, the relationship with the receptionist mattered a lot. The pharmaceutical company rejected a smart and talented person for how they treated the receptionist. Sound harsh? Sounds brilliant to me.

[Read “Do You Pass the Smile Test?]

The Good Life Requires Good Relationships

Robert J. Waldinger is an American psychiatrist and professor at Harvard Medical School. He gave a TED talk about his findings from a 75-year-long Harvard study on adult happiness. It has over twenty-five million views, and he closes with the reminder that “the good life is built with good relationships.” The evidence is clear. With good relationships, you will be happier, physically healthier, and you’ll live longer.

What is a good relationship worth to you at work? Here’s an easy way to answer that question. Can you think of someone who is technically brilliant but lacks people skills? Nine times out of ten their technical brilliance has not been fully utilized because of their inability to master the people side of work. I’ve worked on three continents, in seven countries, and in forty-five states with technically brilliant leaders. In not one case has their barrier to success been their technical skills. In each one, they could not relate to and communicate with stakeholders in mutually beneficial ways.

Here are three ideas for how you can improve your business and personal relationships.

Slow Down. For all of you hard-charging type A personalities, here’s something for you to know. If I feel rushed when I interact with you, I don’t leave the interaction thinking you’re important. I leave the interaction thinking I’m unimportant to you. Building a high-quality relationship requires time and cannot be rushed.

Pay Attention. When you give your undivided attention to someone, you’re sending a crystal clear message. The message is that you’re important enough for me to turn away from phone calls, emails, and text messages. Half the battle of building a high-quality relationship with someone is directly paying attention to them and listening to learn what’s important to them.

Serve Them. For the majority of my life, I didn’t like the word serve because it was too closely linked to words like inferior, submissive, and passive. However, the moment I submitted myself to serving another person in the hopes of making their life easier, better, and more rewarding, I found serving others not only felt good—but when done with sincerity, generosity, and gratitude—it grew my business appreciably. The reality is that if I am not serving the other person and their interests I’m serving my own interests. This is not a success strategy that works long-term.

Good relationships will help you live a longer, healthier, and happier life. They will also grow your business, inspire employees to give more effort, encourage customers to be more loyal, and improve your overall results.

What rating would you give the quality of your professional and personal relationships? More importantly, what rating would your most important relationship give you?

[Read “Modifying Your Behavior Style Is Only the First Step”]