Brian Smyth recently wrote in his new book, Managing to be Human, “We are only as good as our relationships”. What he meant by this is that as leaders, we do not physically get things done; rather we rely on others to make it happen. To have these relationships to enable this is extremely powerful. In fact it is the appropriate use of this power that truly leads people towards a common vision, purpose or goal.
So how do leaders do this? How do they establish relationships in the first place and then, through ups and downs, maintain them? In truth it is not rocket science although much has been written. Often, we over think this subject or try to make it fit into our own mould or perception of what we think it should be.
Working off the premise that being effective as leaders is predicated on establishing solid relationships, what are some key elements?
This is not about you being a wonderful orator or the life and soul of the party. In fact it’s quite the opposite. Ask questions and listen to what others have to say. And when you do speak offer insights that help the other person or serve the greater cause (just like a good coach). In any relationship there has to be a genuine demonstration of care; this is the primary way of doing it.
See the good in people and offer the benefit of the doubt. Give them the purpose behind what they do, the skills and the autonomy to execute and then place trust in their ability to execute. Trust is a reciprocal value and every leader must demonstrate it first before they can receive it. It is the cement that holds the relationship together.
This is a two-way street designed to celebrate success and learn from failures – not to find fault. Solid relationships are forged through the communication that ensues during both good times and bad. Bringing a degree of honesty and consistency to this process addresses the need for feedback and ensures that people understand where they are at on the relationship continuum.
So if your desire is to be an effective leader, recognize that relationships are the foundational necessities. If you have good ones with all your stakeholders, you stand a chance.