Sunday, February 20, 2005

That R-Word

It’s too bad that Relationship is such a scary word when all it really means in the business context is working well together. No one’s asking for a commitment, at least not here. And it’s not all that mysterious either as to how and why it works and how to use it to your advantage without becoming Machiavellian about it.

The simple answer is we are comfortable with what we know, less comfortable with what we don’t know. We are more likely to work readily with what makes us comfortable because it’s less painful… less uncomfortable.

You probably have examples of your own to share here… someone you know asks you a favor and you’re more than happy to comply if it’s in your power. Imagine being asked the same thing from someone you don’t know as well or don’t care too much about; suddenly it’s an annoyance instead and there are at least ten reasons the task can’t be done.

If you’re a manager and you’re in a group ranking process with other managers, your own people rate high with you and others you don’t know so well are more suspect. The other managers think just the opposite. The only people on whom you really agree are those who have spent time with each of you.

Knowing this, you can fix the kinds of problems that result from being an unknown factor. Get your people known by the managers in other groups. Spend time yourself with other people in your organization who can influence your work and your career. Get to know other people better and help them to know you.

That’s all that building relationship thing is about. Familiarity doesn’t have to breed contempt. Instead, it can pave the way to future success.

One person put it to me this way - "After all, if you can't 'use' your friends, who can you 'use'?"

Sounds manipulative, doesn't it? How do you keep it from becoming something that sounds that bad? That's not tough either. The key is to focus on the other person, not on what they can do for you. This way, whatever happens as a result of the relationship will come as an appropriate side benefit instead turning you both into people who are simply using each other.

How have relationships helped you and how have you built them? Curious minds at want to know!

What would it be worth to you to have better working relationships?