How do you measure the health of your working relationships? Do you check in on the quality of critical working relationships? Do you know who are your critical partners for success at work? In my experience, most people don’t give much thought to it until things go wrong.
I don't need a friend who changes when I change and who nods when I nod; my shadow does that much better.
Change Management is an exception: most leaders know they should analyze their stakeholders and monitor the quality of their relationships ahead of and throughout a major transformation, and assign explicit responsibility for each relationship as they go. They track their vocal supporters and resisters. They seek out their silent supporters and resisters, and encourage the former to convert the latter.
Why isn’t this business as usual? Your working relationships are assets. Track them all the time, not only at the moments of truth when you need your colleagues to weigh in for you. Trust is built in the good times. Your social capital balance amasses in the good times.
This is not to say that the ideal is that all your Working Relationships are close, friendly and redolent with sweetness and light, but that you should be aware of their status so that you are not brought down by faulty assumptions or ignorance of colleagues’ opinions.
Nurturing your Working Relationships uncritically holds the danger that you prioritize the relationship over other matters. If you choose to avoid a decision or influence a decision in order to preserve a Relationship or not damage it, then you may compromise your objectives. Friendships at work can create conflicting loyalties for you, which again can distract you from the best business choices.
There is no such thing as “no relationship”. What does the absence of contact tell you? Is there no benefit or does the absence represent an underlying problem – an undiscussable? Why are you in contact with one colleague and not another? Could this warn you of a hidden bias in you choice of interaction?
Here are some statements to help you reflect on your Working Relationships. I developed them to help colleagues in a management team so may want to vary them for your situation:
- We trust each other to act
- We respect each other
- We ask each other's advice
- We respond if the other asks for help
- We don’t surprise each other – we give each other a heads-up
- We have a reliable communication channel
- We can discuss something confidentially knowing the other will respect the confidence
- We can rely on each other to challenge assumptions, faulty thinking and avoidance
- We don’t dwell on the past
- We can give each other direct, situational feedback when others will not
- We don’t worry about pleasing each other
- If we have a disagreement, we can still talk to each other
- We deliver on the commitments we make to each other
- We maintain a positive relationship and do not act politically against other parts of the organization
- We are consistent in the messages we give to each other and our respective teams
- We lead by example – we show our teams how to act towards each other and the rest of the organization
- We don’t resent the other’s success
Are they Working Relationships?
I forgot to shake hands and be friendly. It was an important lesson about leadership.