4 RelateIn what part of your relationship world do you pay most attention and play intentionally? There are four directions to consider:

  1. Down: Our team, the people who help us deliver results.
  2. Over: Our peers, with whom we might collaborate on bigger initiatives.
  3. Up: Our bosses and bosses-bosses and their peers (e.g., including boards and investors, etc.).
  4. Out: Our internal and external stakeholders who are outside of our core circle (e.g., clients, customers, vendors, organizations, etc.).

What I find is that most of us are pretty good at focusing on one (maybe two) of the four directions.

  • A new CEO has either created success by leading teams OR managing the up-and-around (3 and 4 in my diagram).
  • A project team leader is good at managing the team, assuming his peers are aligned.
  • A consultant might be very client-focused, but miss the internal competition for that client relationship.

If we are really good at one, why us it not so easy with others?

In organizations, relationships have a purpose, a contribution to some type of result. Effective relationships should produce good results. Most often, we haven’t thought through and organized exactly who matters to those results. We get busy in the doing of the work at hand. We expect to “engage” people when we need them—usually too late. Thinking through key stakeholders and assuming you’ll get to them when needed is often costly as well.

And sometimes we are somewhere between uncomfortable to afraid of a particular direction.

Are we always talking about relationships?

What’s needed is not necessarily  a smoochy relationship or even a full relationship. You do need to pay attention, use what you know to be effective, and find a way to relate that sets you up to get the results you need. For example, you may not have dinner with your bosses boss, but you might find an opportunity in a meeting or “drive by” his office to preview some new thinking. You use that kind of meeting to test your current understanding of him and collect more data.

Use your project or initiative timeline and lay out who needs to provide input or decide when and how—then set your relationship plan.

Beyond our relationship responsibility, we gravitate to those we enjoy.

Relationships take time. It’s so easy to use our precious time to reach out to our “friends.” They ease the pressure, give us affirmation, but may not matter at all to our results. Worse yet, you might get a false sense of being “on track.”

Again and always, take the right time with the right people for your best results.