By now you’ve probably accepted – or at least heard – that relationships are key to your business success. But, even if you believe that’s true, you might not know exactly what it takes to build the crucial, sustained relationships that propel your business forward.

Here are the three ingredients I consider essential in any business relationship:


People know when you’re being real and when you aren’t. If you can’t show up to business relationships in an authentic way, it might not be worth your time to show up at all. Maybe it’s just my introverted nature, but I can feel when someone’s being fake with me from a million miles away – and it can sour a relationship much more than if I never connected with them in the first place. I suspect I’m not alone in that.

Authenticity is easy to talk about and hard to do, however. Showing up as your true self in social situations can feel a little intimidating, especially if you’re an introverted or otherwise private person. It requires putting yourself out there, beyond your comfort zone, for the whole world to see. It also requires facing down your fear that you don’t measure up in one or more ways.

The best tool I know to build authenticity is curiosity. Get interested in the people around you. Ask them questions. Learn what makes them tick, what troubles them, what excites them. Before long, you’ll feel like the conversations are easier, like you know and are more comfortable with the people you’re talking to, and like it’s safer for you to show up and relate just as you are.


Whether you’re leading a team or networking with customers, nothing can kill a budding relationship (or a sustained one) like being a bad listener. Failing to listen when others are speaking sends the signal that you don’t value them. You come across as rushed or distracted at best, and rude or arrogant at worst.

If you suspect your listening skills aren’t up to par, start by figuring out why. When your mind wanders or you interrupt when someone else is speaking, pause and see if you can find out what’s triggering you. Are you just in a hurry? Are you planning what you’re going to say next? Or is it just a bad habit? Then, find a way to interrupt the loop. Take a deep breath and gently redirect your mind. Before long, you’ll find you’re listening much better than you ever did before.


People think of integrity in a variety of different ways, but to me integrity has always meant doing what you said you were going to do. Even when it was hard. Even when no one else was watching.

Integrity is crucial in relationships because it makes it easier for people to trust you, and trust is a key component any relationship. To have integrity you have to be deliberate and intentional about giving your word. You can’t pretend to be all things to all people, because you’ll never be able to pull that off. Instead, make only the commitments and promises you really intend to keep. When something keeps you from following through, be honest. Apologize when necessary.

Nothing enriches your daily work, your career, or your life like the relationships you build along the way. If you find yourself lagging behind in this area, it might be time to examine how your skills stack up.