The secret to moving from success to influence

You may be successful, a high-performer even, consistently hitting goals, meeting deadlines and over-performing on “the numbers”.  But are you actually lacking in true influence and significance?

In a previous article, I told the story of the highly competent CFO who was isolated and mistrusted because he was so difficult to get along with, until he dismantled his wall of self-preservation.  I explained how self-preservation makes us step away from genuine relationship and stay at the transactional level.   It’s when we feel we have something to prove, something to lose or something to hide.

Schooled in the transactional

But as I reflected on my own life and career, I’ve come to realise how I was schooled in the transactional.

I started my career in a consulting firm serving a growing market. There was plenty of work and profitability was very much tied to the junior consultants being highly billable and to projects being delivered efficiently.  So the unspoken culture was “sell the work, deliver the work, get out and move on to the next contract“.

I followed the model and my performance was generally amongst the top of my peers.

However, looking back I realised that in those early years I missed so many opportunities to build genuine relationship that went beyond the transaction.  In being so results-focused, I failed to make the personal investment of time and attention in the clients I was serving. And I lost influence.

Frankly, nobody criticised me for this, or held me to account for this, or frankly even noticed.  I was a star-performer, right? And the clients were happy with the work we delivered.  But had I decided to be genuinely “for” my clients and to truly build relationship, I’m sure the long-term return on investment for both of us would have been enormous.

So, to any of those early-day clients out there: my apologies!

Surprised by the transformational

In those early days, I noticed a couple of colleagues hit their numbers through a different strategy.  They knuckled down and truly served a couple of clients, and built a real relationship.  Hard work.  But of course they were rewarded with a true position of influence within the account, a long-term friendship – and a good stream of work down the line!

With this lens of transaction versus relationship, the difference in approaches seems so obvious.  But at the time, I didn’t have the mental model to see what was going on.

Of course, over the years I’ve matured and understand the importance of both delivering on the task and building the relationship.  I’ve resolved to be a leader who is trustworthy, competent, and genuinely “for” those people in my sphere of influence. I’ve become aware of my natural tendency to prioritise the task and simply get the transactional ‘win’, and simply choose now to pursue relationship instead. I don’t always succeed of course, but it is now my ambition.

What’s your barrier?

All this might seem a no-brainer. Surely the transformational impact of real relationship is what we all long for? But there are always barriers to relationship, for example:

  • I have pressing short-term objectives, and don’t have the time.
  • I have limited time and energy, and don’t see the “ROI”.
  • I don’t need any more friends right now!
  • Perhaps they don’t want a relationship with me, anyway.
  • Am I prepared to be vulnerable enough to let relationship emerge?

So let me ask: what’s keeping you from building genuine relationships with those you lead and serve?

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