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Relatable Professionalism: The Business Equivalent of a Doctor’s Bedside Manner

May 18, 2022

Originally featured in SBAM’s FOCUS Magazine

A skilled surgeon’s hands may be guided by angels, but the surgeon’s personality may be comparable to that of a rock.

In all fairness, there is a high probability that many surgeons, and others in the medical profession, have a strong balance of medical skills along with well-honed human relations skills—aka “a good bedside manner.” To that end, a study review published in The Lancet indicated that “the quality of the interaction between physician and patient can be extremely influential in patient outcomes.”

Similarly, we feel that applying relatable professionalism to all aspects of your business will ultimately result in an increased employee morale and a much-improved bottom line. Sir Richard Branson, the British billionaire entrepreneur and business magnate, is credited with saying, “Take care of your employees, and they will take care of your customers.” He takes care of his employees using relatable professionalism.

According to Helen Akers in her 2017 article “The Importance of Human Relations in Business,” “developing effective human relations is crucial to establishing and maintaining productive business relationships.” Regarding business relationships with employees, Pacific Crest Group states, “… employee motivation is a key to the company’s success.”

How high would you rate your level of relatable professionalism?

Here are some questions to ask yourself to determine your level of relatable professionalism:

  1. Do you know the names of the top 50 people with whom you regularly interact?
  2. What unique aspect of those people are you aware of?
  3. How often do you verbally or electronically communicate with those individuals?
  4. What can or should you do differently to improve your level of relatable professionalism with those individuals?

Depending on your answers to these questions, you may already be engaged in relatable professionalism. If you are uncomfortable with your answers, you may want to consider modifying your interactions—with individuals both inside and outside your business.

Taking the time to become aware of aspects of other people’s lives can reap benefits. Those aspects could include:

  1. Someone becoming a parent or grandparent, or even an aunt or uncle.
  2. A family or team member excelling at a specific endeavor (academics, sports or volunteering).
  3. The passing of a loved one.
  4. A special event for the other person (birthday, anniversary, graduation or marriage).

Acting with relatable professionalism can be as simple as noticing a behavioral change or performance decline in a team member. Rather than reprimanding that person, you ask carefully-worded questions to gain insight on the “whys.” By taking the time to ask if there’s anything you can do to help improve the situation causing issues, you are opening the door and gaining insight on how to help remedy the issue, while gaining their trust and loyalty to you as a leader.

Applying relatable professionalism can have a beneficial impact on the bottom line. For example, John Maxwell, in his book Leader shift: The 11 Essential Changes Every Leader Must Embrace, states that the only way to “….grow an organization [is] through the growth of its individual members.” Additionally, Daniel Goleman, author of Working With Emotional Intelligence, asserts “… the key to how much effort they put into their work [is] how emotionally attached they [feel] to their organization.”

Another benefit to taking a relatable professionalism approach is by improving your reputation as a leader—as a transformational leader. For the purpose of this article, a transformational leader works with people by helping them grow professionally. For example, if a steadfast and highly dependable employee was late in submitting a required report, a transactional leader (who lacks relatable professionalism) would immediately berate the employee for the lateness of the report without finding out the reason why it is late.

A transformational leader—who has relatable professionalism—would give the employee the benefit of the doubt and seek the reason for the report’s lateness, which could be something beyond their control, like a power outage, spending the night with a sick child in an emergency room or being caught in a lengthy traffic jam due to a motor vehicle accident 20 cars ahead.

Steven Sample, in his book The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership, acknowledges that, as president of a nationally known university, he had access to resources that those under his supervision did not. He then found ways to help those individuals succeed by using his resources on their behalf. His actions of serving and developing others as a mentor leader is a prime example of relatable professionalism. One inescapable outcome of actions like Sample’s is the more you support your team, the more they will support you as their leader. By properly applying a relatable professionalism approach, you will be the leader you would want to lead you!

George Scott is the president of Business Consulting Solutions, LLC (formerly known as Business Consulting Services), a Lansing business consulting and business brokerage firm that helps business owners fix, grow or sell their businesses. An SBAM member since 2014, many of George’s business articles have previously appeared in Focus. He can be reached at (517) 515-1701 or

Kerstin Pentz is president of Pentz Consulting in Lansing. For portions of this article, she draws her wisdom from her time as a manager at two Lansing area food service businesses She can be reached at (517) 614-9404 or 

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