I am not a fan of making New Year’s resolutions for obvious reasons. Hardly anyone keeps them for very long. It has been said that it takes at least six weeks of continuous work to turn something like a resolution into a habit – exercising, dieting, biking, and the like – but only six days of neglect to let that habit lapse. Does that fit your situation like it does mine?
What if we all focus our energies in 2021 on building stronger relationships at all levels? Family, friends, coworkers, college, and high school friends. The principles would appear to work the same for each of these constituencies. 1) Be intentional. 2) Be consistent. 3) Reach out while you are thinking about someone.
Make a list of those that you want to connect with more frequently. Check your LinkedIn contacts and those on your phone. Why are these people important in your life and when was the last time that you spoke? This goes beyond networking and ensures that you connect with those who helped shape your values and intellect.
Do not let this be a “one and done” event but use your electronic calendar to set up reminders for the next twelve months so you do not forget. Or go old school and write down the names of people you want to speak with this week. Set up Zoom calls with groups of people like high school and college classmates or former business colleagues. You shared something special with each of those groups, and that should not be forgotten.
Reach out while you are thinking about someone
If you are thinking about someone, do not wait or just write it down. Just pick up the phone and call or send a text -RIGHT NOW. My college roommate and I started this years ago and it worked well especially since we had a terrific conversation a short time before he died.
There are several examples of situations where I am have worked with individuals to ensure that building relationships was paramount in their leadership development.
Moving to a New Position
In this situation, you need to understand that while you bring many strengths to your new role, there are cultural and relationship issues that you will need to learn. Unless you are in a turnaround situation, it may be prudent to look for smaller wins and not try and tackle the bigger issues without fully understanding the history of the situation. Build relationships with those you are influential as “floor leaders” who can help you be accepted more quickly.
Carolyn O’Hara wrote a Harvard Business Review article titled “How to Build a Strong Relationship with a New Boss” has some excellent principles to consider.
Principles to Remember
- Try to find things you have in common to help break the ice
- Be mindful of the many challenges your new boss will face in the first weeks
- Look for opportunities to help your new manager further their goals
- Go overboard trying to get yourself noticed. But don’t hide at your desk, either.
- Assume the new boss wants everything in long emails or memos. Ask directly about their preferred communication style.
- Come to the table only bearing problems. Present solutions whenever you can.
Board Chair and CEO Relationship
There is no stronger tie than with a Board Chair and company CEO that is critical to setting the “tone at the top” and ensuring that the top leadership are aligned on all governance issues.
Russell Reynolds Associates published a paper titled “Essential Elements of an Effective CEO-Board Relationship: A model for Boards Led by a Non-Executive Chair”. They identify relationship responsibilities of the Chair, the CEO as well as individual and shared responsibilities of directors. Here are a few highlights of an actual situation where the relationship of a Chair and CEO was developed:
At The Bailey Group, our founder Leigh Bailey and I worked with a first time Chair and CEO on building such a collaborative relationship. As we systematically progressed through the responsibilities listed in the Russell Reynolds article, we asked how each felt about the relationship. It became clear that there was a divide. Each executive had only worked for one large company prior to assuming their current responsibilities. One had been used to the Executive Leadership Team having almost unfettered access to Board Members, and the other was used to ELT members having only limited and structured access to Board Members. As the discussion continued, we pointed out that there was no right or wrong answer on how to handle this question, but only how did the two of them agree on how to handle it in THIS SITUATION. It took some time, but they came to an agreement that was workable for all parties.
According to a “Community Toolbox” web posting on building relationships, here are the fundamental reasons why this is important:
- Community building occurs one-to-one. You need to build relationships with people one-to-one if you want them to become involved in your group or organization. Some people become involved in organizations because they believe in the cause. However, many people become involved in a community group or organization, just because they have a relationship with another person who is already involved.
- We need relationships in order to win allies to our cause. In order to get support from people outside our organizations, we need to build relationships in which people know and trust us.
- Our relationships give meaning and richness to our work and to our lives. We all need a community of people to share the joys and the struggles of organizing and making community change. A little bit of camaraderie goes a long way.
Let’s see if we can get past the “six-week rule” and make this resolution a permanent part of our ongoing daily activities.