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The 4 Types of Relationships That Can Make or Break Your Career This map will help you figure out how to enhance the positive business relationship results you are seeking.

By Dr. Henry Cloud Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


You hear it all the time as a business leader or entrepreneur, "your success will depend upon the people you surround yourself with." That's true... you must find the best talent and get them on your team and in your company. No doubt about it. But, there is one fatal flaw that leaders make in the "people" department over and over again. In both startup situations, and among seasoned leaders, I see them focusing on finding the right people to do the work, but not giving attention to the ingredients of those relationships that actually fuel performance, and increase their own performance as well.

Ask any high performer about their best season in business or in life... or their worst season, and you will always find one thing to be true: there was another person or persons playing a pivotal part during that time. The neglected truth of performance is that to succeed and perform well, you must have the right kinds of relationships active along the way, and at the same time, you must avoid others.

Related: 4 Tips on Building Stronger Business Relationships

We all know this intuitively, that some people affect us well and others can "do us in." But now neuroscience is able to explain the "how and why" this happens, and how to be better stewards of our relational world so that we are being fueled in the right ways, and escape the downfalls of the wrong kinds of relationships in both business and in life. Turns out that there are relationships that actually increase performance in our brains, and those that diminish us. Knowing how this works can mean the difference between success and failure.

Leaders that I work with find this simple map helpful to determine whom to get close to and whom to avoid. They also find it useful in their teams as well. I call it the "map of the leader's world," and there are only four possibilities, four possible corners of your world, where you can find yourself in any relationship:

Corner one: No connection.

This corner is the one of being surrounded by people, but still basically being "on your own." There is the absence of needs being met, an absence of real enhancement of fueling or connectedness that drives you to doing well and being better. Ultimately, you feel like you are by yourself, and it all depends on you, even with others around you or even on your team. "Alone...but with others." It is the corner of unmet needs.

Corner two: Bad connection.

In this corner, we have connection with someone(s) but the nature of the connection is that we end up feeling "bad," in some way. "Inferior"..."not good enough," always not measuring up. This is very different than being appropriately challenged or getting feedback, for those are invigorating. This dynamic, however, is demotivating and painful. De-energizing, as it feels like not matter what you do, it is never good enough and never reaches the bar. While in the short-term, this dynamic can fuel your efforts, over time it becomes debilitating to performance.

Relationship: 12 Tips for Creating Meaningful Business Relationships Online

Corner three: Pseudo-good connection

Different than the aloneness of Corner One and the bad feelings of Corner Two, Corner Three feels "good." At least for a while. This is the connection that makes us feel good in some medicates us. The approval of someone, the flattery that makes us feel we can do no wrong, the accolades of one more promotion or adulation all feel good, but are shallow and ultimately not performance-enhancing. A team or life surrounded by "yes" people and admirers is neither fueling nor challenging us towards improvement. It is like a "sugar-high," that feels good for a minute...until you need it again. It nourishes nothing.

Corner four: Real connection.

The only one that helps us or our business get better, Corner Four has attributes that are different than the other three. It is the place where we can be real about our needs for others, which overcomes the isolated efforts of Corner One. It is the place where we can be challenged to do better, like Corner Two, but in a way that is motivating and not diminishing. It is a place where feeling good happens as in Corner Three, but is based on real accomplishment, thriving and being connected from both our strengths and our weaknesses. It acknowledges failure and mistakes, unlike Corner Three, but is able to both metabolize those and use them for learning and "getting better." And it has other ingredients as well, such as support, ownership, modeling, enhancing self-control and regulation, energizing challenge with feedback, and more. It is "real," where we can be honest and authentic and be accepted and challenged.

Related: 8 Reasons Why Entrepreneurs Need More Business Relationships and Fewer Friends

I find that high performers always find a Corner Four place to live....both in work and in their personal lives. They also build their teams, boards and companies around Corner Four elements. Use this little map for you and your team, and I think it will help you figure out how to eliminate some pain, and enhance more of the results you are seeking.

Dr. Henry Cloud

Psychologist, leadership consultant, author.

Dr. Henry Cloud is a psychologist, leadership consultant, and New York Times best-sellingauthor. His latest book is The Power Of The Other: The Startling Effect That Others Have On You From The Boardroom To The Bedroom, and Beyond, published by HarperBusiness, an imprint of HarperCollins.

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