The Idea:  Elevating a relationship isn’t something you do. It’s a result of everything you’ve done. Most people aren’t looking for highly differentiated solutions; they are looking for reliability, results, and trust. Yet, too often we spend time in transactional discussions versus forging higher level partnerships.  What are the secrets of higher level trusting relationships?

They start with appreciating patience and not forcing premature or unnatural conversations. Author and consultant David Fields recently reminded me that there are six pillars that support successful next-level engagements.  People embrace relationships with someone they know, like, trust, need, want, and value.  If any of these six pillars are weakened, the relationship is vulnerable to collapse.

Higher-performing relationships exist when both parties have an outward focus and an understanding of the other’s unstated interests.  And this only occurs when the relationship is cemented in trust.  David Fields refers to it as the “Trust Triangle.” People who trust others believe three things:

  • They understand you are thinking of ME!
  • You will help ME!
  • You won’t hurt ME!

Due to market forces, extreme competition, and shrinking margins, retailers and manufacturers are very transactional; suffering from limited trust.  Something must give. Business must be expansive, spacious and purposeful.  Transactional relationships are not sustainable, enjoyable, or effective.

How do we embrace the Trust Triangle?

Third Option Thinking:   William Ury is a prolific author and co-founder of Harvard’s program on Negotiation.  He is also one of the early originators of the idea of “third option” thinking in relationships and conflict management.  Ury believes there are never only two options in a negotiation. It’s not “my” goals or “your” goals; it’s our mutual goals.  This mindset moves us away from dualistic, limiting thinking, expanding our options together.

Finding the third option – or “win-win” – requires time spent on uncovering the stated goals, interests, plans, assets, blind spots, and risks confronting both parties.  The goal is to strive for ONENESS. The best relationships embrace empathy and vulnerability, sharing the often-unstated parts of a relationship – including financial challenges, political nuances, and personnel deficiencies.  It’s about embracing shared values.

Collaborative Discussions:   Stephen Colbert’s music director and band leader, Jon Batiste, shared “In a live performance, it’s a collaboration with the audience; you ride the ebb and flow of the crowd’s energy.”

Set the tone for peaceful, honest discussion. That’s the ethos of great collaboration with a partner.  As Batiste knows, the audience creates an atmosphere for the artist to accelerate, ideate, and perform – knowing full well they are rewarded for doing so.  They are better together, versus operating separately.

Like third option thinking, the heart of higher level collaborative discussions are rooted in the belief that your partner has your best interest in mind.  You trust that they are bringing forward ideas and solutions that address your interests.   The best collaborates and trust their partners.

The research clearly shows that collaborative, facilitated discussions create better outcomes for both parties.  How do you maximize these discussions?

  • Focus on learning, not winning a deal.
  • Keep group discussions small, flexible with a focus on meeting your partner’s broader goals
  • Keep discussions fun, open, creative, honest, spacious and safe.  

Trust is more important than technical knowledge, perfect pitch or experiential slides.  The healthiest collaborative relations start with an outward focus and are built on trust, reliability, shared values.