How Your Relationships Affect Your Results

In this blog post, I would like to focus on the importance of relations.

The last blog post briefly touched on this when you worked through the high-performance team model.

The second step in that process—the who part—is all about relations.

Daniel H. Kim, the systems thinker, has illustrated this in an elegant way.

You then have a fundamental choice here which can go one of two ways: You can generate an upward spiral where we are continuously developing our relations and, as a result, performing better, or you can take the downward spiral where it all just gets worse.

It's a choice—a choice that's going to determine whether the team's going to be successful or not.

Ultimately, it’s going to determine whether you're successful in your role as a team leader.

For the first-time manager (FTM), this sometimes comes as a surprise. You may think, "I have a gazillion other things to do. Do I also have to think about that? I just want to get the job done."

The next thought might be, "But what do relations mean exactly?" This is where the FTM can make a classic and costly mistake.

Relationships are not about trying to please everyone.  A relationship is about mutual expectations which is something entirely different.

I like Ed Schein’s definition of a relationship: A relationship is a set of mutual expectations about each other’s future behavior based on past interactions with each other.

You have a relationship with someone when you can more or less predict some of their behaviors, and vice versa. Relationships go both ways, otherwise, they are not relationships.

But there are also relationships of different depths with other people. They can be shallow, meaning that both individuals have a vague sense of what the other person will do. At the other end of the spectrum, relationships can be deep to the extent that you almost know what the other person thinks and feels in most situations.

A good and solid work relationship means that you and the other person feel a certain level of comfort with each other. Both of you have a good understanding of how the other will react. You are also well aligned with respect to whatever goal or project you are working on.

That kind of comfortable relationship is often summarized in one small word: trust.

But in order for a person to determine how much to trust another, as well as how honest one can expect themselves to be with that other person, you and that person must have a history.

People judge their relationships on past interactions. They are usually observant of these first interactions because they use them as a test—and the result of the test feeds into their conclusions on how a relationship works.

In practical terms, this means that as an FTM, you will need to invest time and effort in building these relationships. When doing so, you have three basic tools at your disposal: your actions, your behaviors, and your conversations.

In the next blog, you'll look closer at these three relationship-building instruments.

Further Reading: Leadership: What, Why and How

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Mike Hohnen, MBA is a coach, trainer, author and public speaker who supports leaders, managers and their teams in implementing the principles of the Service Profit Chain.


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