Building Relationships

“In the face of leadership flaws, too many people assume cynical perspectives, rather than do the hard work of building relationships in which they can have more positive influence.”
–Ira Chaleff


This week I attended part of a management retreat, in the hope that I would gain insights useful in my next assignment.  It wasn’t so much the insights I sought as something I heard at this retreat that caught my ear.  Something that pleasantly surprised me so much that I felt it as noteworthy, positive, and fairly new for my organization.  That something was a conversation geared towards building relationships.

Back in February I wrote about the four types of team conversations (see “The Four Types of Team Conversations”), which I summarize here:

  1. Information sharing
  2. Planning
  3. Problem solving
  4. Relationship building

In my years of observing leadership in action, I saw a lot of conversations for sharing information, planning, or solving a problem.  Rarely did I see a conversation geared towards building relationships.  Yet as I remarked in February, conversations that build relationships are critical to the success of a team.  A team builds cohesion and shared commitment by engaging each other in a variety of topics and activities that may not necessarily be geared towards sharing information, planning, or solving a problem.  It is through the interaction that the members develop alignment with the organization’s larger purpose.  Finally, I asserted that building relationships leads to currency that can be spent in the other three conversations, and greatly increase the effectiveness of each.  It was with great interest that I listened to the director in his closing, in which he stated that a large purpose of the retreat was geared towards building relationships.  The message he sent was that building relationships as a management team is critical to the challenges that are before us as we deal with the ambiguities and uncertainties in human spaceflight.

At that moment I realized: he gets it.

Therein lies a point for me to consider further: if he gets it, who else on the management team is similarly inclined?  More than I would suppose at first blush?


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Building Relationships