Treating Relationships like a Career: Applying Business Strategies to Personal Life


Treating Relationships like a Career: Applying Business Strategies to Personal Life

When it comes to advancing one’s career-path, people are aware that they need to invest in their education, develop their skills, gain experience, and dedicate time and energy to succeed. The same rule applies to personal relationships – it takes just as much work, skill, and energy to make relationships work and thrive. Yet, some make the mistake of taking their personal relationships for granted, and expecting them to succeed no matter what. In this interview, business coach Hannah Pelley talks about how the skills and strategies that we use every day with the people we work with are actually the very same skills that we can use to improve our personal relationships.


Hannah Pelley is the founder of Solutions for Impact. Hannah coaches business professionals on how to win over difficult business colleagues, navigates tough conversations & situations, and create the work experience & life they want. Hannah is an industry recognized thought leader and proven expert in creating and implementing strategies that maximize business performance and organizational health.  She has 18 years of award winning real-world experience leading executives, managers and individual contributors at Microsoft and Toyota Motor Sales, USA.  Her impact spans 20,000 professionals in 35+ countries from startups to Fortune 100 companies.

Treating Relationships like a Career: Applying Business Strategies to Personal Life


What is your approach to personal relationships from a business point of view?

Most people invest a lot of energy, mindfulness, and strategic thinking when it comes to the people we do business with.  We put our best foot forward when it comes to work. Home, on the other hand, is considered to be our sanctuary, our comfort zone, our safe place; so many people don’t put the same amount of effort with loved ones as they do with colleagues.  There is this unspoken expectation that the people we are close to in our personal lives will always be there for us, be forgiving and accepting - no matter what. Often, people use all their energy being mindful and strategic at work, and when they come home they don’t have much left to give; they are too exhausted and drained to make similar efforts in the relationship with their family.  We don’t consciously realize that life doesn’t have two separated parts: work and home. There is just one life, and it’s our responsibility to integrate and manage all the different components of it to make it a success.  The reality is that we need to invest effort in our personal life, just like in business, to make it thrive.


Could you give an example of a common challenge at work that is also relevant in private relationships?

When one of my clients complains about a co-worker that is difficult to work with, I encourage them to get to know their colleague on a more personal level.  Most of the time, if we take interest in getting to know them, they will share enough about their lives to give you some potential insight into reasons for their behavior.  This naturally enables us to see them as more “human” and therefore relatable so we gain empathy and learn how to better work with them.  People usually don’t get up in the morning and decide to make everyone around them miserable. There is a reason behind their behavior. Maybe they behave the way they do because of a previous bad experience, or they might be going through a tough time in their personal life.

There are 3 steps I recommend to discover their story and begin building a relationship:

1.    Take them out for coffee or lunch.  This gives you the time and focus to connect with them on a deeper level.  Start with an open mind and be sure to give them grace.
2.    Develop rapport.  Once you have established rapport, ask them what you could do to enable them to be even more successful.
3.    Build the relationship.  Continue to nurture the relationship in everyday interactions and take notice of the positive changes.

The same thing is true when we get to those rough patches in our own personal lives and we feel that our partner is being difficult – take a step back. Is there something going on in their life that is potentially the root cause for their behavior? 

There are 3 steps I recommend to better understand if any external factors may be impacting how they are feeling and therefore their behavior:

1.     Thoughtfully find out what may be bothering them.  Use your time together, during dinner – for example, to ask open-ended questions such as: “What is your biggest challenge at work right now?” or “If you could change two things about your work or personal life what would you change?”  I don’t recommend making statements such as “I noticed…” since many times it will make them defensive.    
2.    Ask them how you can support them.  Invest in finding out what is impacting them as well as offer help.  Ask open-ended questions like “What can I do to support you on this?” rather than assuming.  This will show your partner that you truly care, demonstrates you are invested in them and will strengthen the relationship.   
3.     Follow through upon the agreed upon action.  In addition to this directly helping them, it will many times positively change their “difficult” behaviors. 

Taking ownership of a situation and knowing that you have the power to drive a positive change is very empowering. 


Is there a business approach regarding collaborative work that you like to use in your personal life?

I think of any relationship as a team; the team either wins together or loses together. If a couple is having a discussion and only one-person gets his/hers way – this couple as a team didn’t reach its goal. One person will typically feel bad or like they “lost.” 

I live by my mantra, “People oppose what is imposed upon them.  They support what they help create.” For the team to win, the situation should be solved in a way that works for everyone. That is why it’s important for all parties involved, whether at work or at home, to take part in the decision-making process and work together to come up with ideas of what would improve the situation (without blame). The psychological term for it is Growth Mindset, where each party is open to learning new ideas/approaches and adjusts accordingly. In business, we use this type of thinking to positively and successfully go through the Change Management process.  Simply stated, this is when everyone works together to determine what they want the future state to be and what each person needs and will do to get the team there.  Approaching it like this gets each person bought-in, willing to participate, and results in stronger ideas and impactful changes.  I literally live my life by this approach; I apply it at work and at home, with the way I interact with my husband and my child.  When everyone is part of creating the solution - relationships strengthen, communications improve, life becomes easier to navigate and more enjoyable.


Hannah Pelley will be the guest speaker at the next Making a Match meeting:

Treating Relationships like a Career: Applying Business Strategies to Personal life:
6 Secrets on How to Create, Strengthen, and Repair your Personal & Professional Relationships

Learn powerful Strategies from a business relationship expert you can immediately use to create the relationships you want.


Tuesday, August 8th
7:00 - 9:00 PM
Redmond Regional Library
15990 NE 85th St, Redmond, WA 98052 

For more details and to register visit Making a Match website. Participation is free.




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