No R.O.I. without the investment – …

– that applies to business relationships too!


meetingIt comes as no surprise that everyone who is in a leadership role knows how important relationships are. When I have conversations with leaders their focus is mainly on how to build relationships, whether it is in the organisation in general or in the teams they are leading in particular. And indeed, building relationships is very important when you start in a new role as a leader.

What surprised me in some of these conversations was that the attention on how to take care of relationships over time or even how to repair damaged relationships is very limited or even non-existent.


What do bank accounts and relationships have in common?

In this context, I’d like to use the metaphor of a bank account which you may have heard about under the label “emotional bank account”. To make this metaphor work, however, we have to assume for a minute we are not in times of extremely low interest rates on bank accounts.

Now, a bank account works well for an owner when he pays a reasonable amount of money into the account. Only then can he get reasonable returns through the interest paid.

One can withdraw from that bank account until almost nothing is left without any damage done but returns will be much lower, of course. To get an optimum return on the money in the account it is vital to stay in touch with the bank to talk about opportunities and changes to the account management in order to get the best returns. Can you already see the parallels?piggy-bank

That’s right. When you go into overdraft the penalty through very high interest rates charged on your overdraft gets extremely high. And if you ever reach the maximum limit for your overdraft the bank will block your account altogether.


Transferring this concept to relationships is rather simple:

Investing in relationships continuously gives you good returns and over time you can draw on this investment when you need additional support. And if you don’t pay in nothing will come back either – nothing positive, that is. This is a straightforward dynamic in business relationships – and any other relationship too, for that matter.


Maintaining good returns from a business relationship

And yet, maintaining good returns from a business relationship does need a bit more attention and care. You need to stay in touch with the other person in a specific way to understand how your investment in that relationship benefits them -and you in return-, and whether there are opportunities to make this relationship mutually even more beneficial. In practice this does not take too much time but it requires sufficient and appropriate attention over time. And what appropriate is entirely depends on the person you are dealing with.

So, when it did happen and you -most likely inadvertently- seriously damaged (you took an overdraft from) a relationship that might be important in your work context, you will need to invest heavily in the relationship before you are likely to see any returns (again). In your interactions this really means that you need to be of benefit to the other person before you can consider drawing from this specific account again. Of course, at the start of your reinvestment you have to have an intense and highly constructive conversation with the other person in order to clear the air and restore normal ground. And that can be the tricky bit! Yet, it is possible and most certainly worth it.

The better option though is to not let it get that far and maintain and nurture a relationship from the beginning and for the long-haul.

Intrigued? Feel free to get in touch if you are interested in a more detailed conversation on this subject. Or you can leave a comment below.

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