Build strong relationships


The majority of finance leaders need to build strong relationships with people to deliver their role effectively. Lots of finance leaders have underdeveloped or poor relationships with key individuals in the workplace. This makes it difficult to create the impact that you need to within your finance leader role. It also has the potential to completely derail you during important team presentations or when trying to influence a big decision.

Some statistics

Our GrowCFO community is constantly highlighting the consequences of underdeveloped relationships. In fact, 13% of finance leaders consider this to be one of their top three biggest challenges.

The root cause

As with any big challenge, it is important to start by understanding its root cause.

Here are the typical reasons why finance leaders identify the need to build stronger relationships as one of their main challenges:

– Not dedicating enough time towards properly getting to know people and understanding what they need, plus how they like to work.

– Finding it difficult to bond with people who have different personality types.

– Struggling to spend time with NEDs, Chairs and other Board members who are part of the full-time management team.

– Alienating themselves from the wider business when implementing their financial stewardship role.

Most finance leaders know that they need to build stronger relationships but either lack sufficient time to do this or struggle to build up an appropriate rapport with the individuals concerned.

Build strong relationships

Every finance leader needs to build strong relationships across your network and develop good interaction with other people.  These are essential for your own success as well as for the success of others as well.  They will help you to deliver your role effectively, to get things done and to make decisions in the workplace.

You can significantly increase your influence over people who like and respect you, which also increases the chances of them helping you when required.

Here are four key elements to help you build strong relationships:

  • Recognition: Creating the right impact when you meet others – you only get the opportunity to create your first impression once and you normally only have around 23 seconds to do this!
  • Recall: If you come across really well in the first meeting then you will be remembered.
  • Respect: Earning people’s trust will encourage them to cooperate with you.
  • Responsibility: You have got to be in control of your relationships and take responsibility for building rapport with others.

You may need to vary your tactics with certain individuals if you do not get the result that you need during your first attempt.

Review your networking skills

Try to invest in relationships, regardless of how important they may appear at any point in time.  Relationships are powerful, providing opportunities and rewards every day.  They involve getting to know people and valuing what you bring into one another’s life.

You should start by answering the following questions:

  1. Do you only communicate regularly with people who you know well?
  2. Do you seek to increase your network and get to know new colleagues?
  3. How much time are you investing in engaging with either current or new relationships?

Finance leaders need to network with your key contacts on a regular basis and should try to identify opportunities for small talk with people whenever possible. 

Regular interactions will help others to become your biggest supporters throughout your role.  If you are working in an online environment then you need to put in a bit of extra effort to achieve this.

Having social connection time is extremely important.  There is nothing wrong with simply asking to meet up with somebody for a chat to get to know them if there is nothing obvious that you need to discuss with them.

Refresh your rapport building skills

Building rapport is fundamental to strengthening your relationships with people.  This takes time, commitment and effort. 

Do not expect this to suddenly happen overnight!  This is easier to do in person, but either way you still need to determine an approach to build strong rapport with people.

There are many different ways in which you interact with people.  You may be trying to impress somebody in your management team.  You could be looking for investments or helping to get a client on board.

The creation of trust is a key element towards building rapport.  You must be prepared to both give and receive feedback in an honest constructive manner.

Having rapport requires you to treat each person as an individual and is essential for meaningful communication.

It is amazing how much you can express within your body language, which is obviously much easier to do if you meet up in person.

Demonstrate an interest in others

It is far more important to be interested in the other person, rather than trying to be interesting yourself. 

Really think about how you want to show up to each interaction.  Plan ahead to consider what you would like to find out about a particular person as you never know when you will suddenly bump into them! 

Do some research preparation about the other person in advance to make an early impact.  Rehearse your opening lines and demonstrate that you are happy to meet them. 

Try to relax and remain calm during each session to make it appear as an interaction that you want to be doing.  Be positive and present yourself in a confident manner with a strong posture.

Enquire and listen throughout your interactions.  Ask open questions to get the other person talking and opening up to you.  Small talk will also help you to engage with people on something other than finance function matters.

Mirror other people

You need to possess the ability to mirror other people during your interactions.  You can achieve this by communicating in a similar style and tone, whilst using complementary body language.

Fortunately, many people already subconsciously mirror others by instinctively caring about them and putting their feelings first.

Build strong relationships: A two-way thing

Your interactions with other people should be a give and receive exchange where you can offer to do something which they will remember from the conversation.

Rapport is a two-way thing therefore try not to dominate any exchange.  Note that unfortunately people tend to speak more when they feel nervous, therefore you need to watch out for this.

Never feel insignificant, regardless of how amazing the other person may appear to be.  You always have something to add or a different perspective to provide.

Build strong relationships: Summary

In summary, you need to really engage with people to build stronger relationships.

There is a lot of emotional intelligence in building relationships and you need to be constantly observing how the other person is responding.

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