My horoscope today: If your relationships had balance sheets you would know by the bottom-line numbers whether they were healthy or suffering, There is nothing so concrete to draw from, so you must be truthful with your feelings.
Clearly, Holiday Mathis the astrologer behind the daily listing in the Berlin Daily Sun, hasn't read my bookJ. As we all know, there are, of course, balance sheets for relationships, at least in business. Those balance sheets have entries like any other. They just happen to be Trust, Commitment, Satisfaction, Control Mutuality, Communal and Exchange
I was recently having lunch with a colleague in Chicago, and was asked what I would like to drink. When I responded "diet Coke," the waiter responded "Is Diet Pepsi okay?" I said no, and the waiter said "I don't blame you," which immediately established a relationship. I wondered to my colleague, Tom Nicholson, about the measure of that. Clearly I wasn't about to walk out of the restaurant because they didn't have diet Coke. But would it affect my likelihood of returning or recommending it. Possibly, but because the waiter had established a relationship, and his service was excellent as was the food, the answer was no. Tom's response was "relationships trump everything." I'm inclined to agree. Sure, the quality of the product had something to do with it, but when you're dining out, and you can just as easily eat somewhere cheaper, the relationship that the waiter established made me enjoy the experience (satisfaction) and want to come back (commitment).
Relationships between organizations and stakeholders are very similar. In tough economic times, when you are looking for ways to cut back, what you cut back are things that don't matter, in other words things or services with which you don't have a strong relationship. A former client of mine used to say "when budgets are tight, I can always cut off a little pinky. I can't cut off my right arm. As long as you're might right arm, you stay in the budget." The difference between being a right arm and a pinky is the difference between a healthy relationship and a non-existent one. Which is why it is critical in these times to measure the health of your relationships. Thanks to the work of the Grunigs and Linda Hon, who established the methodology to do this a decade ago, you can measure not just the level of trust, but every entry into your relationship balance sheet. By asking your stakeholders whether they agree or disagree with specific statements, you can develop a relationship score. By tracking that relationship score over time – via quarterly or semi-annual pulse checks, you'll know whether the relationship is getting healthier. A recent study for a major non-profit revealed a close correlation between likelihood to take action (purchase, volunteer or donate) on behalf of that organization, and a high trust score. So yes, Holiday, there IS a balance sheet for relationships.