1) A connection or association; 2) An emotional association between two people; 3) Kinship.
Notice what has enduring value. If you have witnessed retirement speeches, do you observe how seldom tasks and assignments figure into parting employees’ remarks? Hardly. Rather, people remember the lingering friendships begun through work, and how those relationships will sustain them in their lives. Meaningful connections (not work) hold a lifelong place in their hearts.
Look for commonality of viewpoints. Think of two workplace relationships of your own – one positive and one challenging. Chances are, relationships make all the difference. Where there are difficulties, we find upset and insufficient relatedness. Where there are smooth-flowing relationships, we find mutual trust and respect. Relationships underpin everything we do.
Put relationships first. Our conduct when entering organizations speaks volumes about personal integrity and dignity. Because our ability to build solid relationships forms the foundation for all that follows, it impacts directly upon the ways others subsequently listen to and treat us. We can either enter as bulls in a china shop or we can glide gracefully into new surroundings.
Devote time first to social engagement. In cultures where relationships are sacred, human connection is recognized as a valued pillar of business success. Western leaders must examine their learned belief systems if they are to survive in the world of cross-cultural commerce. Our shrinking global village (happily) insists North American leaders accede to alternative forms of business wisdom.
Treat people as professionals. Unlike cattle, we should not need to continuously prod them. To focus on task is for us to focus on that which should be a given in performing the job. Relationship-building is the means to leveraging results. It is integral to and not separate from goal attainment – unlike the belief systems evidenced by singularly task-focused managers.
Use relationship-building to attain goals. Or, do you believe relationships result from successfully completing work? In some ways, it is a chicken-and-egg scenario. While it is certainly possible to achieve results without relationships, we suggest that by team building first, results will naturally ensue. In other words, authentic team spirit derives from developing true relationships first.
Create connections that honour others. Perhaps intuitively, soul-inspiring leaders recognize the “oneness” of humanity. Realizing we are profoundly interconnected, they see themselves as one with – not separate from – their followers. Neither independent in Lone Ranger fashion, nor dependent in dysfunctional ways, they achieve results by interdependently collaborating with others.
Create deep belonging. Soul-inspiring leaders build relationships based on true partnership, rather than mouthing “we’re one big, happy family” platitudes while employees feel alone and forgotten in the overarching quest for results above all else. They know it takes some leadership courage to depend for their results on relatedness rather than employment contracts.
Questions For Reflection
What percentage of your typical workday do you devote to tasks versus relationships, and would you change your focus in any way?
Can you say something personal about each of your direct reports? If not, how can you make a concerted effort to develop such a relationship with each person?
What if you considered every interaction with the people you work with to be your last? How would that perspective change the quality of your relationships?