My mantra, as a leader and entrepreneur, has always been, “Build the relationship to deliver the goal”, note the order of the words, people coming before the task.
When I facilitate learning workshops, I regularly ask the question, “How much time do you spend discussing the relationship you have with either those you lead or with those who lead you?” The answer, in the majority of cases is not often enough or not at all. The majority of time, in formal review meetings, focus is firmly on reviewing goals, targets, deadlines, budgets etc. Time spent on the what (objectives) has to be done rather than how (behaviour) it is accomplished appears to be skewed significantly towards the task as opposed to the relationship.
Whilst, as humans, we spend significant time with family and friends nurturing and developing relationships, it is though, in a lot of cases, in the workplace the focus is firmly on the task and relationships take a back seat. I’m not saying this is the case with every organisation and every client, however, feedback from delegates, who are both leaders and are led, who attend my learning programmes, would suggest that this is quite a normal occurrence in the business world that we live in today.
Whether it is driven by corporate greed, maximising shareholder value or indeed the propensity of people in leadership positions in certain organisations that are “task-driven and goal-orientated”, if the focus is too skewed to task, whilst in the short-term there will be success, ultimately performance will drop off, engagement will fall and staff will opt-out and go elsewhere, where relationships are an integral and valued part of organisational success.
When I led a team which consisted of 4 direct reports (an optimum number in more ways than one), plus my PA, it was always in my diary, once a month minimum, to spend an hour with each of them to talk about our relationship. Whilst we had reviews about the tasks and numbers, these were less frequent, usually quarterly. The reason being is that we had sufficient data and reports produced on a regular basis, where issues about hitting the targets, were easily highlighted. If an issue arose, we could call an ad-hoc meeting to discuss. The tangible and measureable is easy.
The thing with relationships is that ‘state of a relationship’ is hard to measure, quite often the reason why people shy away from this. However, unless someone can tell me otherwise, long-term beneficial results will only be achieved where relationships between individuals remain robust and mutually beneficial.
So, if you’re a virtual assistant being led by a client and you feel that not enough time is being devoted to building relationships, what are you going to do about it?
Well firstly raise it with the client you need to build the relationship with. Both agree on a plan of action and get some time and dates in the diary. Once you’ve done that, what are the things to discuss at your meetings? Well, I always like to keep things simple and practical, so when I held my relationship meetings with my team, there were simply 3 standing agenda items that we discussed:
- What’s working well in our relationship? We all like to be praised and give praise, so this is a great opportunity to give and receive praise and also ensure you keep doing what you’re doing.
- What’s not working well in our relationship? An opportunity for some two-way developmental feedback. We know clients don’t get it right all of the time, so they also need to adapt and change if things aren’t as needed by those who are trying to assist them.
- Is there any support or development needed? Again, this isn’t just about your needs, they should also be putting forward suggestions for things they need from you.
If the above 3 are a breeze and take no time at all, you can always discuss a fourth area:
4. What are the values and skills I demonstrate that you most appreciate? This is a great one as it enables you to understand the perception of another person of your behaviour. Do they see you the same as you see yourself or do they see someone different.
You can learn more and get more great insights from Nick here!
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