On a family television program many years ago, one of the characters (a man in the middle age range) was giving advice to a young boy. While pointing to this head then his hands, he said, “If you train these two things, you will never go wrong in life.” I took such advice as sage. I figured that with a learned mind and skilled hands success was a sure thing. Not going to college following high school, I spent four years in the trades in my late teens and early twenties. I learned a great deal about home construction and the proper use of hand and power tools. I also acquired a keen eye of detail and a sense of right and wrong in its mechanical manifestation (i.e. keep rain out of the house!). Following this – and about the same time many of my peers were graduating – I returned to college to earn a degree in engineering. Certainly, I was now well on my way to life of success.
Upon graduation, I spent the next several years as a management consultant and never practiced engineering professionally – other than a few complex equations here and there. Feeling I was still light on some executive level business acumen and hungry for yet even more knowledge, I self-funded my way through an intensely powerful and life transforming Executive MBA program. Between the gifts of my hands and my mind, I could not imagine anything standing in the way of me achieving untold success. How naive I was. No matter what corner of the professional world in which I chose to operate, I wasn’t going to get very far without skills in relationships. To be sure, I am very personable and I warm up to most people with relative ease. Moreover, I have an innate ability to sense looming breakdowns in relationships I observe whether as a participant or bystander. I learned a great deal about the soft-skills of leadership and I do place great value on relationships.
I mentioned skills of the brain and of the hands; both of which I feel I have in spades. Developing deep and trusting relationships – even in business – is a skill of the heart. Knowledge and manual dexterity will get you places but earning trust for your credibility, authenticity, and integrity is a skill that truly sets apart those with enviable success. A person who is both a genius and an alchemist but lacks this third skill – relationships I believe, is destined for struggle.
Relationship building is not a single step process to be marginalized. It requires a devotion to a process and authenticity of self towards others. In others words, it requires the same dedication to mastery as does craftsmanship and knowledge. I am committed to my own growth in developing business relationships at this level.
In closing I want to extend a warm thanks to my friend and fellow business school alum, Bogie Rosypal, for his contribution to the insight for this blog. It was during a conversation with Bogie that this idea of relationship as a third skill emerged such that I could articulate my thoughts with the result being this post.
As always, comments are welcome.
Have a Great Day!