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5 Helpful Tips

Why Relationships are the Backbone of a CEO’s Success

People follow those able to get them going in a direction they believe is best. They follow people they believe in. They support the person who inspires them.

Two women working together

Do some people think leaders are only those with leadership titles, like CEO? Sure. But ultimately, it’s not the title people follow. It is not the title that makes a CEO successful.

After all, you cannot coerce followership, friendship, or support and expect there to be people standing with you.

What makes a CEO successful is strong relationships — especially with their staff, board, and donors. 

Top 4 Relationships a CEO Should Invest In

1. Employees

It may come as a surprise that employees are listed first. You may have expected the board or donors to be top of the list. But the success of any organization starts with its people. It’s important to provide a nurturing work environment where employees can thrive and be fulfilled. 

2. Board

As a CEO, your relationship with the board is critical. A strong board relationship can offer you support to grow professionally. Board members are chosen because of their expertise and experience (at least, that’s the ideal). 

This means they can give you insight. They can help you celebrate your success and critically analyze areas where you could improve. Simply put, if you build strong relationships with your board, your board becomes your ally.

Iron sharpens iron.

3. Donors

For a nonprofit, donors keep the lights on. The funds and support they provide allow an organization to fulfill its mission. As you cultivate relationships with donors, remember not all donations come in the form of dollars. Some donors give by sharing their time and expertise. These can be equally as valuable.

Donors also share their enthusiasm for your mission with others. This can significantly increase your organization’s reach.

4. Family & Friends

A review of 400 scientific studies looked at the correlation between relationships and success. It found that a strong support system helps to buffer the effects of stress during tough times, encouraging you to step outside your comfort zone and keep growing. 

It’s easy to get so caught up in work your relationships suffer. Make a point to keep investing in your relationships with friends and family. Keep the coffee dates. Make it home for dinner. Call to check-in. 

When you can, take the opportunity to meet face-to-face with members of your team. The more personal interaction you have, the stronger your bonds will be.

5 Ways CEOs Can Cultivate Strong Relationships

If there was a secret sauce to good relationships, we’d bottle it up and ship it off to all the non-profit organizations.

Cultivating strong relationships takes work. While there’s no one-size-fits-all recipe for success, utilizing some (or all) of the following tips can certainly give you a leg up. 

1. Send Handwritten Notes

There’s a lot to love about online research, sophisticated software tools, and social media. But, there’s a timeless beauty to the handwritten note. The handwritten note signifies a special level of importance to the recipient. It engages with them on multiple levels, allowing you to physically interact with someone, even when you’re not face-to-face.

Simply put, handwritten notes stand out. They are memorable. They encourage a stronger bond than any email or text message ever could. 

2. Practice the 3 Day Rule

Hard things are going to happen. People will upset you. They will let you down, tell you no — give you critical feedback. You will need to make difficult decisions. 

When you’re faced with those tough decisions, it can be easy to be impulsive and act quickly. Don’t.

Use the ‘Three-Day Rule’. Whenever you’re confronted with a challenging decision, take three days to respond. During that time, do the hard work and wait. Meditate on the decision. Consider all perspectives. Allow your emotions to calm.

You will be amazed at how using this rule will help you in both your personal and professional life.

3. Give Gifts. They Can Open Doors.

The Western culture is familiar with giving gifts around certain holidays, such as birthdays and Christmas. However, the important role of gifts transcends Hallmark cards. 

According to anthropologist Terry Y. Le Vine, the practice of giving and receiving gifts is so universal “it is part of what it means to be human.”

From culture to culture, you can see how gifts strengthen relationships. In Korean culture, for example, it’s considered proper to present gifts at important meetings. They do not need to be expensive. Rather, the gift should be thoughtful and appropriate. 

Is it always possible to find a gift before every meeting? Maybe not. It is not as easy as you may think to find the right gifts, but people don’t forget you when you do. And it is an adventure finding them. Have fun. 

Bonus Tip: Keep a Stash of Something You Love

Do you love a specific chocolate? Is there a local smoked salmon you enjoy? Does the candle shop in town make the prettiest candles you’ve ever seen? When you don’t have time or can’t think of anything to get someone, having a go-to gift can be a great stand-in. 

Pair it with a thoughtful note about how much you personally enjoy this item and how you hope the recipient will too.

4. Seek Out Others with Different Gifts & Lift Them Up

Surround yourself with people just like you and you’ll stay just like you. Surround yourself with people blessed with different gifts and you and your organization will flourish.

Sometimes this can be easier said than done. We’re often drawn to those who are like us. We’re often primed to recognize achievements that are similar to our own. 

5. Be Trustworthy

Trust is a firm belief in the character, strength, or truth of someone or something. Throughout our daily lives, we have to practice this trust. 

It’s easy to trust things like a lightbulb turning on. What’s harder is trusting people. Things — objects — are predictable and reliable. People can be erratic. They can respond differently from day to day. They can evolve. And, their beliefs can change.

Do You Want to Grow as CEO?

The best leaders never stop learning. They develop their skills through deliberate focus and experienced guidance. I often had to learn the hard way that effective leadership takes practice and support. That’s why I’m committed to sharing my experience and knowledge to help you grow.

If you are facing a difficult time, or just want to take steps to be a more impactful CEO, let's chat about executive training.

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Bob Lonac

About Bob Lonac

Today, friends call me a leader of leaders. But this wasn’t always the case.

During my life of working in faith-based, Christ-centered ministry, relationships have proved to be the common thread. My passion is helping other people grow through one-on-one mentoring and small group training. I love building teams. I love seeing people and organizations succeed. You can read more about my story and what I'm doing now.

I am still learning a lot and it would be fantastic to share this journey with you! If you haven’t yet, sign up for my email newsletter so we can stay connected.