Relationships are everything!
Maurice Duffy

Written by Maurice Duffy

I was recently on a train and watching three generations of one family travelling together.

I must admit I was enthralled by their easy comfort and banter with one another and the care they took of each other’s opinions. As someone who has never had that type of family opportunity I was envious of the comparative closeness of the unit and the sheer joy they got out of each other’s company. Perhaps I even felt a little jealous for things I may not have valued enough or put enough effort into developing. I could not help but ponder on the impact our environment and relationships have on our lives.

In the many workshops we at blackswan deliver, we talk about the return on relationship as being a more powerful enabler of business success now than at any time in our recent history. The past taught us to look at the transaction between leaders and their teams and assume that this was the ‘end game’. The transaction was the consummation of the leader/team event. Many leaders did and still do adopt a feudalistic approach to management and create a spider’s web of relationships where they place themselves in the control position at the top of the hierarchy, and at the centre of the systems, processes and decision making.

In organisational terms, big leaders still appoint small leaders, decisions are made by people with big titles, and strategy is still very much a top down process. Relationships are linear in their transactional activity. In a recent study in which I participated, on trying to establish the drivers of productivity and output, it became more and more apparent that the strength, depth, honesty, transparency and authenticity of relationships within a business were of such significant value that they had a huge impact on the bottom line. The purpose of the study was to establish what drove productivity and value, and it was clearly established that engagement had a significantly greater input than skills and competencies. Engagement is fed by, and needs, relationships. Relationships though can be hard work. Good things take time. Like wine. The challenge we have is that many people look for shortcuts all the time.

I am always amazed how easy it is to get people to talk to, or sit only by, influential people. This is a very ego-driven behaviour and I feel they think, like a disease, success is contagious. Sometimes they are willing to work ONLY if they know of something guaranteed in return. We must be true to ourselves, as everyone else is taken. We must be true to others, as the relationship is critical to our future success.

These days I work now mainly for relationships. Products, services, links, compensation are not my priorities. In fact they are just transitory events without any depth. I feel very strongly that if you put enough into the relationship, the relationship always delivers a personal return, be it friendship, guidance, mentoring or business opportunities. Relationships involve feelings. I am more likely to act on and support something if I have a (good) relationship with it. I will listen more.

Dig deep and get honest with yourself – it will open your eyes. For those who survived the recession battered and bruised, the new decade figures to be just as challenging as the last one. Those businesses that survive and hopefully thrive will do so based on the ability to nurture relationships with people in a much more open and honest way.

To my fellow travellers from the train, I wish you great luck and thank you again for reinforcing that which is important – relationships.