Relationship management allows you to connect with others in ways that help them feel understood and supported. Managing relationships is an essential emotional intelligence skill that enables you to effectively lead change or manage personal change.
Managing relationships is much more than being friendly. It takes effort and intention (and some strategy) to get the best from a situation and manage the way people respond.
Relationship Management meets Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence consists of four basic capabilities, or domains. These are:
This page focuses on relationship management - the ability to inspire and influence others and sort out the conflicts that arise. This is the last of the domains of emotional intelligence proposed by Daniel Goleman. Use the links above to find out about the other domains or
get an overview of emotional intelligence here.
Relationships can be complicated. I was fascinated to read Rudy Giuliani (Mayor of the City of New York: 1993 - 2001 and
Time 2001 Person of the Year
) acknowledge how difficult it really is to predict how people will respond to each other and how they'll work together.
In his (highly recommended) 2002 book, 'Leadership' Giuliani observes, "Sometimes very different people will form a harmonious unit, while those with a lot in common can't be in a room together" (p. 111).
So is relationship management just luck, or is there something we can do?
One thing you can be sure of is that if you're going to manage relationships effectively you'll need to use every bit of
to understand what's going on and how it's affecting you.
You see, effective management of relationships relies on all the abilities in the three domains of emotional intelligence that I've highlighted above.
Four criteria for effective relationship management
Before you can manage relationships you need to notice and manage the effect people have on you and be aware of what they are feeling and what's led to them feeling that way.
Only then can you decide how best to interact with them in order to achieve the outcome that best suits your needs.
If you read that sentence again you'll see there are four criteria to effective relationship management:
- A decision regarding the best course of action in a particular situation.
This will be based on research you've done to understand how people are feeling and why they're feeling that way.
Based on this you'll have thought about different ways to interact with them and the different reactions you might get when you say or do something. You'll also be aware of their effect on you and how to manage this appropriately.
- An interaction with others based on the research you've done.
- An outcome: how and what you say or do will be guided by a specific outcome you want to achieve. This makes relationship management an intentional activity.
- Your needs: the outcome you intend to achieve will be guided by your specific needs, or the business needs, at that time.
Anyone involved in the entertainment industry might find these aspects of relationship management very familiar.
It's as important that in business and our personal lives we are equally aware of how we manage the relationships around us.
According to Daniel Goleman the competencies associated with relationship management are:
- Influence: persuading others.
- Inspirational leadership: providing a vision that motivates others.
- Developing others: providing feedback and building skills and knowledge.
- Change catalyst: recognising the need for change and supporting the process.
- Conflict management: Settling disputes, differences of opinion and misunderstanding.
- Building bonds: creating and maintaining networks.
- Teamwork and collaboration: building effective teams.
The competencies of relationship management are often associated with leadership, mostly because these are obvious areas we associate with leadership. But these competencies are equally relevant to managing personal change.
Leaders find ways to inspire and motivate people by tapping into the values and desires people have and finding ways to align these with the needs of the business. Using empathy and other EI skills leaders are able to build and maintain levels of trust.
We're all finely tuned in to and aware of other people’s emotions most of the time, even if our reading of those emotions is not 100% accurate. Leaders that forget this, and try to manipulate situations, quickly become distrusted if people sense they're acting falsely.
Recognising the need for change
When it comes to managing change in our businesses, work or personal lives, it's important that we are able to recognise the need for change and support the process of change.
Being a 'change catalyst' may take some effort, especially when change feels as if it's being forced on us. The effort is worth it as building strengths in this competency is key to effective change management.
It doesn't matter whether you're staff, middle, or senior management; if you're not able to get on board with and support the change you're heading for
resistance to change.
It's essential that leaders of change effectively communicate the need for change and demonstrate their support for the process.
This is equally important at times when you're managing personal change. Finding ways to adjust to the change and support it will significantly decrease personal resistance and stress.
Improving Relationship Management
So what's the best way to go about improving your relationship management?
First, realise that this is not a task you can complete overnight. As with other domains of emotional intelligence the growth of skills is a life journey. However, there are things you can start doing now.
Most important is building your awareness of, and skills in, the first three domains of emotional intelligence.
Awareness of your emotions
and being able to manage these emotions
are essential abilities that will support your effective management of relationships.
Imagine attempting any of the competencies of relationship management listed above if you're always provoked by the reactions of others. I would humbly suggest that this is impossible.
Similarly, awareness of what other groups or individuals are feeling, and what's led to this
is essential as it informs the possibilities for your response or intervention. At the very least you will have considered the best way to approach a person or group in order to achieve the best outcome (ie. the one you want!).
Download this relationship management skills worksheet
or create a list of the competencies outlined above. To develop your ability to manage relationships it's useful to assess your skills in each of the competencies and focus your attention on what you can do to develop each one.
- Start by writing down the ways you already perform the competency well. For example, next to "Developing Others" you might feel you have no problem giving others feedback. Write it down!
- Next, write down areas for development, ie. an aspect of that competency that can be improved. Using the same example you might admit that while you give people feedback it could be more supportive and less critical. The area for development will be learning to give supportive feedback. Take some time and work through each competency.
- Now list at least two actions that will help you develop that area. There are many ways you can do this. For example you could take a short course, read a book, do your own research, or model someone you respect.
- Finally, choose one, or more, competencies you’d like to work on and put the action steps into action!
If you are feeling very daring give this task to a friend or colleague and ask them to complete it on your behalf - as they see you.
Focusing on building competencies will give you many ways to improve your relationship management. Remember, you're not expected to be strong in every competency, but it helps to keep an open mind about developing new strengths and building on those you've got.
Leave Relationship Management and return to the Emotional Intelligence overview.
Return to the Homepage