Playing a game and participating in sports require a similar power structure: In order for someone to win, someone has to lose. This is the exact mindset often used in business, one that lays value on fighting for what is deserved and hard-earned. Wonder Women disrupters know that a paradigm shift is needed in how people work, live and compete. In the movie, Wonder Woman said it best: “It’s not about deserving, it’s about what you believe.”
So what does Diana Prince believe in? She believes in love because she values people more than she values power. Wonder Women know people, not money, make lasting change happen. No one can disrupt the status quo alone. While money may buy faster access to change, it cannot sustain transformation; only people and their relationships with each other can. The long and short of it is that if you want to change the world, you need strong, powerful relationships that stand the test of time. Here are three ways you can build power relationships that disrupt the status quo and help you grow into the disrupter you deserve to be.
1. Cultivate relationships instead of always closing the deal.
Susan Black, CFP, is a managing director at Boston Private, a wealth management and private banking company. Let’s face it -- the money world is quite transactional. When it comes to working with money managers, clients often feel like they are in a scene from Glengarry Glen Ross where the salespeople are trained to always be closing (ABC).
Like her peers, Black is highly skilled at managing large sums of money and delivering incredible returns. What sets her apart in the banking industry is her relationship-based approach where the client’s goals and aspirations are at the center of the relationship. Far from a one-size-fits-all mindset common in the financials services industry, Black’s relationship approach may require a new definition of success, one that favors building worth over time. “In transactional relationships, there are winners and losers. Even the language reflects the shortfall,” says Black. While the ABC approach may land a killer deal in the short term, it’s at the cost of a longer-term relationship where loyalty is rewarded through multiple engagements happening over a lifetime.
Black’s advice on cultivating power relationships: Be grounded in mutual respect, listening and the goal of building loyalty. “When I help my clients to imagine, articulate and commit to their long-term goals, they are better able to work toward the future they want to achieve rather than measuring performance to an index that says nothing of the quality of life and experience,” says Black.
2. Sit on the same side of the table.
Amy Spurling, a West Coast transplant living in Boston, has spent a career building early stage companies from concept to full-fledged businesses. Currently serving as CEO of a new startup in development mode (that’s "stealth mode" for those readers who are used to Silicon Valley speak), Spurling was named 2016 CFO of the Year in her adopted city. As a successful serial entrepreneur, she is used to the hand-to-hand combat of building and exiting a company. However, unlike most high-growth startup founders who focus exclusively on product and closing the deals, she believes an additional component should be foundational to a business’s journey: culture.
When Spurling looks at a business she doesn’t only see an organization, she sees a team where every member is essential to achieving goals and objectives. “You can tell a lot about a company’s culture based on the behavior that is tolerated, who gets rewarded and who gets promoted,” says Spurling. While short-term financial gains may feel good in the moment, they do nothing for continuity or customer and employee value over time.
Spurling’s advice on cultivating power relationships: Take a bigger picture view of the world. “It’s really important to be intentionally fair and inclusive by focusing on the value of a role and providing opportunities for growth. This approach puts everyone on the same side of the table and keeps the focus on achieving a big vision instead of wasting time on adversarial jockeying,” says Spurling.
3. Remember that leaders are only leaders when stakeholders enable them to be.
Like Susan Black and Amy Spurling, every successful female disrupter I have met uses transformational leadership in order to lay the path for large-scale change. Some have tried the hammer-and-nail approach only to learn that it does not hold up during times of uncertainty. Unlike the give-and-take model of transactional leadership, transformational leadership inspires others to achieve unimaginable success through visioning, collaboration and dialogue.
As natural transformational leaders, women form power relationships through shared experiences, whereby they learn how people work and interact with others. Experiential trust is built over time. Your relationships become the source of inspiration, information and future growth.
My advice for cultivating power relationships: Remember your role as a leader is at the pleasure of your stakeholders -- the people who have a stake in the disruption you are creating and the vision you are working to achieve. As one of my wonderful mentors told me years ago, “Brick buildings don’t do business with brick buildings. People do business with people.” Make sure that your stakeholders feel valued by you and that you actively seek their engagement. After all, no one gets to the finish line alone.