Developing Business Intimacy

Eighteen months ago, I took on the challenge, with three good friends, to walk the south coast of England, a commitment we knew would take us four years to complete. One of the joys of this, apart from exploring the wonderful UK coastline, is the time we have to talk, to understand, to explore what is going on in our worlds and just “be” with each other. It has already developed and deepened our relationships and our friendship.  We have had the luxury of time and space to do this which is not always the case, especially in our working lives and I’ve been reflecting on how it’s possible to develop deeper relationships more quickly at work and actually whether it’s necessary or not.

For the last ten years James Butcher, a good colleague of mine, and I have been working with professional services firms particularly in the area of developing commercial and high value relationships, James, in his last blog, wrote about the importance of trusting relationships for business development. Maister’s Trust equation advocates a mixture and balance of credibility, reliability, intimacy and orientation towards others’ agendas to support us in developing trust. Intimacy is often the element that is questioned the most; how do we/can we develop greater “intimacy” and how important is it in business development?

On one level we know about the importance of understanding our clients needs to enable us to tailor and adapt our thoughts and ideas to their context and challenges which in turn will enable us to deliver what is both needed and wanted. If we develop business intimacy, a relationship in which clients confide in us, we are more likely to understand the personal, political and cultural dimensions of our clients ‘challenges, it can help advance our and their thinking and enables us to give added insight.

On a second level, in a world of uncertainty, complexity and increasing pressure/demands, what could be more important than the need for us all to connect on a basic human level, to be heard, to be seen and listened to, to share some of our hopes and fears about the world. It can help develop partnerships (we have a deeper sense of who we are working with), enable greater collaborative working (through the understanding of shared goals or purpose) and develop loyalty to one another through a deeper connection.

It doesn’t have to mean that all parts of our private lives get shared, what it does mean is that we learn and understand more about each other from a professional, business, social and personal point of view, a more holistic view of each other, because isn’t that what we bring to the table? It is, in someways, a game of mutually increasing risk and courage. One party offers a piece of themselves and the other party either responds (deepening intimacy) or they don’t (drawing an intimacy line). It can be the scariest part of trust because it is about who we are and more than any other aspect of trust it can require more courage.

Many assume intimacy takes the longest to develop but when done well, it doesn’t have to be. I don’t believe you need hours of time and beautiful scenery (though that can help) but a mindset of connection, curiosity, a few well placed questions, a good ear and a willingness to give of your self and your own hopes and desires for the work you are doing together will take you a long way down the road.

We would be really interested in hearing from you about your experiences of developing business intimacy do connect with us…..
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