An Investment Too Often Overlooked
Updated: Feb 19
“In the connection economy, trust and relationships are the new currency. It’s not a soft thing you do in your spare time, it’s the heart and soul of your business.”
· Seth Godin, Entrepreneur and bestselling business author
Relationship is defined as, the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected, or the state of being connected (Oxford Languages). By definition, you are in relationship with everyone and everything in your life. Yet, most of us pay very little attention to the quality of our relationships.
It takes time. It takes effort. The results are not always immediately visible.
You know this. You’ve been in a relationship you neglected and saw first-hand the impact. We all do.
For me, the relationship was with my parents. My kids were little, I was working, and I was swept up in the day-to-day. I could never quite find the time to meet for coffee or drive the hour to their house. There would be time for that later. Then, in 2020 when the world shut down they moved 2,000 miles away to live where it was warmer and to be near my sister - who had invested in the relationship. It was a harsh wake up call. But, let’s be honest, I’m fortunate my wake up took them 2,000 miles and not away from me permanently. Now, it takes even more time and more money, but you better believe I’m doing everything I can to invest in this relationship now, while I still can.
What relationship is it for you? Is it with another person or with something in your life (food, alcohol, sleep…)? Is it a relationship in your personal or professional life?
It’s easy to see why personal relationships matter but should leaders invest time and money in relationships? In a word, YES!
In 2017 Harvard Business Review reported, Employees in high-trust organizations are more productive, have more energy at work, collaborate better with their colleagues, and stay with their employers longer than people working at low-trust companies. They also suffer less chronic stress and are happier with their lives, and these factors fuel stronger performance. ( "The Neuroscience of Trust", Harvard Business Review)
Six years later, the importance of these findings are amplified by the unprecedented uncertainty created by the pandemic and world events. Leaders are faced with incredible pressure to change the way business is done.
According to the 2022 PWC Annual Global CEO Survey, trust may be one of the more important enablers of change:
Our survey also provides a glimpse of what is possible when we reimagine the status quo. A case in point: the power of trust. We found that highly trusted companies are more likely to have made net-zero commitments and to have tied their CEO’s compensation to nonfinancial outcomes, such as employee engagement scores and gender diversity in the workforce… To the extent that highly trusted companies are thinking and acting differently, and that those actions could help bridge the gap between society’s expectations and the system in which CEOs are operating, trust may be a meaningful enabler of change. And it’s only through change—bold, innovative and unbounded—that we can secure our collective future. (PWC Annual Global CEO Survey).
And in the era of the Great Resignation, organizations can’t afford not to invest in relationships. According to Ted Kitterman, a writer for Great Places to Work, “You might have several theories about what makes an organization a positive place to work… The key ingredient is deceptively simple: trust. Do your workers trust you?” (https://www.greatplacetowork.com/resources/blog/why-and-how-to-build-trust-in-the-workplace).
As leaders we need to ask not only if we are investing enough in relationships we need to ask if we’re investing in the right way - in a way that leads to the outcomes we want.
In Atlas of the Heart, Dr. Brené Brown, best-selling author and research professor at the University of Houston, describes her current research on meaningful connection. She defines connection as: “The energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”
This is the type of relationship that leads to high trust organizations. Cultivating this type of relationship requires awareness and attention. It requires investment.
Dr. Brown has identified three categories for us to focus on:
· Developing Grounded Confidence
· Practicing the Courage to Walk Alongside
· Practicing Story Stewardship
There is so much in each of these categories. In a future post we’ll dive into each of them. For, now, here’s a brief summary of what we mean by each.
Grounded Confidence: What allows each of us to stay in the discomfort within ourselves that occurs based on whatever is coming at us.
The Courage to Walk Alongside: The ability to be with another person’s emotions and how their emotional experience is informing who they are and how they are behaving.
Story Stewardship: The ability to be with another person’s meaning making. Our ability to listen to their story and be curious about how it has shaped who they are and how they show up in the world WITHOUT imposing our own story onto them.
As Seth Godin accurately said, “trust and relationships are the new currency. It’s not a soft thing you do in your spare time, it’s the heart and soul of your business.”
Are you building meaningful connections?
Are you teaching others in our organization to do the same?