Consider what I call the “hub and spokes” strategic relationships building approach, which is a key to successful business development and connecting with others. Think of yourself as the “hub” of a bicycle tire and the “spokes” as the key stakeholders that you must engage and stay connected with—simply put the folks and/or the organizations (including clients, colleagues, associates, prospects and investors) that will greatly impact your ability to effectively lead and move your team forward.
This hub and spokes approach is anything but a “one way street,” and rather an “other-centered” two-way highway. Much of your ability to manage this hub and spokes is based on your consistent efforts to genuinely connect with and engage your stakeholders. This can’t be done by simply “checking off the box” and telling yourself you must have a specific number of “stakeholder touches” in a given period of time. To me, that is more quantity over quality. Consider the following keys to the hub and spokes model:
Put pen to paper: Sit down to strategically and methodically identify who your key stakeholders are. This should include your family, your professional colleagues, board members, current clients, prospects, etc. The key is to build this type of thinking, activity and communication into your everyday life. The goal is to have a hub and spokes relationship-building philosophy engrained into your leadership DNA.
Be deliberate: Once you have identified the most important people in your universe who impact your ability to lead and be effective in your role, now it is time to proactively strengthen those relationships. This shouldn’t be managed in a haphazard (some call it organic) fashion. Sure, unexpected opportunities present themselves to bolster a business relationship, and “luck” has its place, but real, sustaining relationships in the world of business must be consistently nurtured, maintained and grown.
It is all about the long game: The hub and spokes approach is all about establishing and strengthening real, lasting relationships. This is not an approach to “sales.” Too often, too many “salespeople” focus on getting you to buy something regardless of whether you want or need it. Selling is largely transactional. Strategic relationship building requires that you consistently focus on being attentive to your key stakeholders.
Stay connected with your “spokes:” Use social media along with text, e-mail and phone calls to just say, “congratulations.” When someone in your business universe posts an item on social media about a really terrific event that has happened to them, post a comment saying, “That’s awesome. So happy for you.” Or, better yet, send a text or an e-mail of congratulations to a business stakeholder that just had something great happen in his or her life. Or pick up the phone and call that person. Even if you have to leave a message, it makes all the difference and strengthens that relationship.
Be a trusted advisor: Meaningful relationships can’t simply be about doing what is “in the agreement.” We must consistently be looking at our hub and spokes to ensure we are bringing value to those in our orbit. This could be providing a service to a client that is outside of an agreement or walking down the hall at work to see if your colleague needs help or advice.
Never stop saying “thank you:” So many of us work so hard to secure a deal, an engagement, a sponsorship or whatever it is. Often it involves intense negotiation, compromise and getting into the weeds of an agreement. And all too often, once the deal does get done, too many leaders take it for granted and then it is on to the next task. Use your hub and spokes as a tool to ensure you are letting those around you know how much you truly appreciate them.
Steve Adubato’s “Small Business Lessons in Leadership” Series
As part of the “Small Business Lessons in Leadership” series, Steve Adubato and Mary Gamba are joined by Dennis G. Wilson, President & CEO, Delta Dental of New Jersey and Michele Burke, Partner, Alliance Benefit Solutions talking about return to work, employee satisfaction and what the future holds for small business in New Jersey. Then, Steve and Mary talk with Rick Thigpen, Senior VP Corporate Citizenship, PSEG, for a special series, “Lessons in Leadership: Great Leaders of Color,” where they discuss the leadership of such people as NJ Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver, President Barack Obama and Michele Obama and Muhammad Ali, among others.