When Robert Fulghum published his book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten years ago, he set out to prove that the basic social skills we learned as children are the most useful skills we will ever learn. Now more than ever, those social skills are taking center stage in the professional arena. Learning to cultivate and maintain relationships through simple techniques that even 5-year-olds have mastered is critical to the success of any organization, corporate or public. In fact, organizational relationships can be nurtured in much the same way that we do our friendships. In the organizational world we call our friends stakeholders. But stakeholders are first and foremost human beings. And they require, expect and appreciate the kind of treatment our friends receive on a personal level.
What are those basic expectations?
That we behave authentically (aka, be ourselves).
That we tell the truth.
That we listen.
That we respond to questions and requests promptly and appropriately.
That we maintain a healthy balance of power in the relationship (aka, take turns).
That we respectfully disagree when appropriate, but give good reasons for why we do.
That we share.
That we use our common interests to strengthen our relationship.
That we have fun together.
That we stick up for one another.
This very basic approach to stakeholder relationship building not only humanizes an organization and keeps it grounded, it does more for positive branding than any public relations campaign could possibly do. Because it’s real. And because it is meaningful. Sounds simple, right? It is. But it requires a bit of a paradigm shift, which doesn’t happen overnight. And it requires buy-in at every level of the organization, which requires training and practice. But once an organization truly begins treating stakeholders like human beings and behaving humanly itself, then it can begin to reap the kind of long-lasting rewards we enjoy in our personal lives when we surround ourselves with people we truly care about and who truly care about us.