Relationships; Just How Important Are They?

At a recent summit a presenter said, “As with everything, it all boils down to the relationships we develop with others”. This caused me to think about all the times I hear this being said. Being in education, I hear it a lot. I hear people claim that the key to success in any endeavor depends on the relationships one develops.

So what does this mean? I started exploring this further and discovered some helpful information in a book on leadership and coaching; Coaching For Leadership edited by Marshall Goldsmith, Laurance Lyons and Alyssa Freas. If our success is highly dependent on our relationships, perhaps we should spend some time exploring how to build and maintain these relationships. The following highlights from this resource have provided me with some very helpful insights into my relationships at work.

In the Chapter titled When Leaders Are Coaches in Coaching For Leadership, the chapter authors, James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, state that the number one success factor among the variables for success in the top three jobs in large organizations was identified as “relationships with subordinates”. This was taken from research done at the Center for Creative Leadership. The authors go on to say “the best leaders are caring leaders”.

So how do leaders demonstrate that they are caring? The authors identify three essentials that contribute to these relationships; 1. The leaders set clear standards, 2. The leaders expect the best, and 3. The leaders set the example. Obviously, the leaders have a clear understanding of what they want the relationship to be and to be able to articulate that with standards like goals and values.

The values provide for us the direction and principles that we can use to guide us throughout our life. They provide the grounding we need to establish a committed relationship. The goals provide us a way to measure our commitment to that relationship. As a human being, I’m only going to commitment myself to something that provides meaning to me personally.

To create important relationships effective leaders have high expectations for everyone involved, for both the leader and the followers. These expectations are what develop the relationship into more than a superficial relationship. The expectations cause the individuals involved to be engaged and have a sense of commitment to the relationship.

And thirdly, effective leaders set the example for what they expect of the relationship. When the leaders invest in the development of the relationship the followers know that this relationship is important and one that is critical to the long term. By living the characteristics and values expected of the relationship, the leader is providing credibility for those involved in the relationship. In other words, a behavior critical to developing relationships is people doing what they say they will do.

When these three essentials are followed it becomes apparent that the individual/leader cares about the others involved. Without these essentials and the caring they demonstrate, it will be very difficult to create the kinds of relationships that result in people being committed to the long term.

So the next time you hear someone say that it all depends on the relationships we are developing, think about these three essential for building strong relationships; 1. Set clear standards, 2. Expect the best, and 3. Set the example. Are you taking the time to practice these three essentials in your work world? If not, will you be able to fall back on your relationships when they are needed?

Until next time, remember that if success in your work is highly dependent on the relationships you build, then how important is relationship building to you?