The Most Important Skill Rarely Taught

By Judith M. Guido

The business world and our industry are always changing, and those who identify and leverage change before others do are often the winners and recognized as leaders. The others, either make excuses, or drift off and get lost in the sea of ambiguity. We have witnessed our society change from an agrarian to an industrial society, and then to a technological and service economy. While technology has made incredible improvements and efficiencies in businesses, and in our daily lives, it has also eroded one of the most important skillsets necessary to thrive: building human relationships.

Ironically, the skills that are the greatest drivers of personal and professional success, creating human connections and developing trusting relationships, are almost never taught. To add to the irony, technology has improved our business and personal lives, but it has also weakened our capability to forge connections making our ability to develop human relationships one of the greatest disrupters in business today.

A survey found that almost 90% of senior leaders attributed their professional and personal success to their relationships and networks. Yet less than 25% had a plan to build on those valuable relationships. A follow-up survey showed less than 5% of organizations teach their teams how to develop, strengthen, maintain and leverage relationships to grow and thrive. Also, several studies have proven that “people don’t buy from people they like, they buy and build brands from people they love.”

I can hear you now: “I sell erosion control products and services; this does not apply to me.” You are wrong. Technology has diminished customer, employee and key stakeholder’s experiences and loyalty in all industries.

So, what is the solution? Start by recognizing another major shift in our society and economy: The shift to a relationship economy where success depends on constructing a culture that highlights the importance and differences of individuals. This leads to a community of trustworthy relationships that will help you, the community and your brand grow forward together.

Here are few practices and tools I have been using for decades that have helped me build and maintain a lifelong network of people and connections:

  • Build strong relationships by working on key characteristics within yourself.
  • Be authentic to connect and build trust and rapport, which means showing that you recognize the person as a unique individual with a life outside of business, not somebody you just want to sell.
  • Be genuinely and insatiably curious — learn about their family, work, hobbies and dreams. To become a terrific listener be patient, attentive, ask smart questions, look them in the eye, and use their name when speaking to them.

And finally, you must be empathetic and love people. We hear it all the time. No two people are alike. Each person’s back story is unique with its ups and downs, zigs and zags, and high and lows. Taking the time to really learn each person’s story and support them on their journey will earn you their trust and a lifetime of happiness, growth and rewards you never knew existed.

Judith M. Guido is the chairwoman and founder of Guido & Associates, a business management consulting firm in the erosion control and green industry. Guido can be reached at 818.800.0135 or