#70: Why relationships boost teamwork, innovation & your bottom-line with David Nour

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Who is David?

David is originally from Iran but moved to the United States in 1981. He worked himself through school and university and spent most of his career around technology, sales, marketing, business development, product marketing, then consulting, and private equity. But most importantly, around 20 years ago, he started doing innovation consultancy for global clients and really put the emphasis on strategic relationships.

He loves traveling the world to speak out to and coach many leaders, but for the past two years now, none of that was possible. But that gave him the opportunity to spend time with his wife Wendy and his two kids.

Innovation through relationship management

When David arrived in the US, he noticed a pretty big culture difference in the business world. Back in Iran, it’s custom to first build a relationship and only, later on, do business, while in many western countries, the exact opposite is true.

But what David knows can be hugely beneficial to build meaningful relationships with the people you work with and that is primarily why he does the work he does: to share this amazing idea. If you lead with the relationship and invest in the relationship, you’ll transcend the transactional work and make you and your team experience a much better growth.

“Yeah okay, but how do you apply that concept in an entire organization?”

Well, if you break down an organization into its components, you’ll end up with teams comprised of individuals. These individuals have their own attributes, some can be very rational, others may be very competitive. And each team has its own team dynamics, like candor for example. But if that candor isn’t engrained in the company culture, the team still might spend a ton of recourses on a project they don’t even believe in, because no one dares to speak up, as that might be a career-limiting move.

So if you look at the thread between those individual attributes, team dynamics, and the organization, it’s relationships! You have to build a culture where people dare to speak up, who knows what amazing ideas can come up. And in order to have that psychological safety, you have to build relationships with people. Research actually shows an elevated level of trust when people spend time together in person.

As you probably know, the pandemic has triggered something people call great resignation. More and more people want to work less and spend more time with their families and friends, as well as many people getting burned out. You need to know one thing, no one leaves a job. They leave a leader, an organization, or a culture because they are not feeling heard and valued, that’s why building relationships is incredibly important.

What can you do as a leader?

As a leader yourself, there are a couple of things you can do to improve your relationships and get the best out of yourself and your team. One role you can take upon yourself is the role of a servant leader. If people you the willingness to do their best, ask them what you can do to help them reach that result: what resources do you need? What knowledge do you need? In that way, you can raise their ability!

It always helps to know a person, so that you can help them in their work. Understanding what makes an individual tick, what makes a team perform at its highest level, is one of the best investments every leader can make.

Another essential thing to do as a leader – and I’ve talked about this before – is to create the right environment for your team to function in. A place where people aren’t afraid to share their ideas and emotions. I’ve said this before, but David gave me a nice tip for this one: the first Friday of the month, everyone in the team makes an evaluation of how the previous month went. What went well? What didn’t go so well? But also, how did I feel? What can we change for the next month and what should we keep?

Asking better questions

I hope you understand that great relationships are essential to having a good work-life balance and growth. So let’s do a quick little analysis. Where do great relationships come from? Well, they come from great conversations. But where do great conversations come from? I want you to remember this answer: they come from great questions.

If you want to lead more effectively, you want to lead more impactfully, you want to lead with great results, start asking better questions. And convey your credibility to the questions you ask and not the solutions you provide. 

Why? Because you will get better results when you give employees room to think and come up with creative ideas, than if you simply need them to execute your solution.

The power of curve benders

Well first of all, what are curve benders? There are certain individuals that come into our lives that have a profound impact on our direction in life, but also our destination. Maybe it’s a high school teacher that inspired you to follow through with maths or science. The relationships you have with these people are your curve benders. 

These people demonstrated in the best way possible what it is to be a servant leader. They offered you the resources and abilities to develop yourself in the best way possible and grow. 

In order for you to grow and learn as much as possible, which is, by the way, the only way to stay relevant in this fast-changing digital world, you have to find as much of these curve benders as possible. Not only do you need to find these people, but you should be a servant leader as much as possible too! 

We have faced great disruptions the last two years and research shows that we’re going to face more disruptions in the next decade than we have in our entire lives. That’s why it is so important to evolve, be agile and learn new skills along the way. And the best way to achieve that is to find these curve bending relationships.

I hope you have learned a lot from this podcast, I know I have! Be sure to check out David’s website and forum if you want to know more! See you in the next podcast!

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