No matter what you do for a living, you’re in the relationship business. The only question is whether your “business” is getting better or worse. Relationships never stay the same.
When a leader under-achieves personally or professionally, it’s usually because of their inability or lack of desire to build and sustain positive relationships with those they work with, live with and serve. An individual can be extremely intelligent, technically proficient and have a powerful passion to succeed, and still fail or flounder if they’re not better today than they were yesterday, at the people side of their job.
In order to maximize our potential as leaders, we need to put relationships before results. We know we can’t take our organizations to the next level by ourselves. The current business problems and opportunities require all team members to enthusiastically come together and use their strengths to create a positive environment that adds value to everyone who is touched by its existence. Every customer we serve deserves to work with positive people who are doing their best to be a consistent source of help and inspiration. The only teams able to accomplish this objective are the ones that have strong, healthy relationships.
Unfortunately, at a time when “soft skills” are in high demand, the supply of leaders with this expertise is at an all-time low. Technology is a major reason for this shortage. We live in a world where we can text, tweet, ping and post messages that reach thousands of contacts through social media, but our ability to create deep, meaningful connections with our co-workers, clients, family members, and friends has been going down ever since the invention of the smartphone. Sending a text or email to a co-worker is efficient; but if we rely too much on technology, our relationship skills begin to atrophy.
If you’re ready to strengthen your relationship muscles, put these ideas into action:
Think about the most important people in your world. Then prioritize your top 20 relationships. Include the people you work with, live with, currently serve or want to serve.
Write down everything you know about these people on a separate sheet of paper. Where have they been successful? Where have they struggled? What are their strengths? What are their goals? What do they value? What are their hobbies? What do you have in common with them? What do you like about them?
Identify how much one-on-one time you spent with them last month and how much one-on-one time you want to spend with them between now and the end of the year. Remember, relationships are like a battery, they run down. We need to make regular real-time connections to keep the relationship positively charged.
Create a plan for how and when you’re going to meet with each person on your list before December 31st and create a deeper, more meaningful connection with them. The purpose of this meeting is to just do a relationship review similar to what many leaders do with their best clients at the end of the year. The goal is to learn more about what’s happening in their world, let them know how much you care about them, and see if there is anything you can do to help them reach their goals in the future. If you have kids, include them in this process.
To prepare you for these meetings, practice the following skills every day with the people who cross your path:
Accentuate the positive in everyone. No matter what, look for something good in each person and make a commitment to do your best to bring out the best in them. In addition, between now and the end of the year, choose to refrain from any gossip or negative comments about the people or problems in your work or home life.
Listen to learn something new in every conversation, especially with the people you’ve known for a long time.
Ask positive, open-ended questions about what’s important in someone’s life. Too often our conversations are like stones skipping across the water. They just skim the surface. Keep asking follow-up questions about their areas of interest and try to get them to tell you meaningful stories about their successes or struggles.
I think it’s important for all of us to continue to remind ourselves daily that the main responsibility of leaders at work and in the family is to keep improving relationships with those we lead and love. Why wait for a good relationship to go bad before we spend time turning them around. Many times in life if we wait till something has to be done, it’s too late. It’s also important to remind ourselves that everyone wins when relationships get better and we all lose when they get worse.
Creating a relationship plan today will help your team thrive and family flourish in the future.
Let’s Get Better. Together! Bill Durkin