Leading Partners, Friends and Acquaintances

Posted by on Mar 26, 2013

Leading Partners, Friends
and Acquaintances

What’s your number one asset as a leader? Your skills? Your education? Your work experience?

None of the above.

It is your relational capital, your ability to build strong relationships with a wide range of constituents inside and outside your company.

Borrowing from an ecommerce taxonomy, your work relationships can be classified into three categories: trusted partners, friends and acquaintances.  As a leader, you need to be comfortable with a portfolio of relationships. You need to know who needs to be treated like trusted advisors (strategic partners), just friends (ongoing relationships) or passing acquaintances (ad hoc interactions). The key to managing your work relationships well is getting comfortable with intimacy.

A healthy leader knows how to react appropriately to the level of intimacy needed to manage relationships. 

Technology, especially with the advent of social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.), has made things far more intimate. You know a lot more about your co-workers, customers, friends, vendors, your bosses, than ever before. This can make for a great work place or  it can pose real leadership problems. What happens if leaders are uncomfortable or neglect intimacy in work settings? Two dysfunctional extremes can happen:

  1. people who use this new found intimacy to start rumors and gossip, incessantly causing innumerable leadership headaches, or;
  2. people who are paralyzed by intimacy and ignore elephants sitting in the room.

How good are you at handling intimacy with your employees, your boss? 

Leaders with good relationships, and those comfortable with intimacy, spend the time developing their social health.* They can tap into a repertoire of behaviors needed for relationship management.  In his upcoming book, Grounded, our CEO, Bob Rosen, explains how leaders can acknowledge the organizational realities of transparency, intimacy and collaboration in healthy ways.

What does that look like? Here are some of the behaviors good relationship managers do:

  • manage conflict productively and avoid getting sucked into taking sides, gossiping, or alienating others
  • actively listen to others
  • know when to use technology to communicate and when to use face-to-face interaction
  • give thoughtful and helpful feedback so that they in return will get quality feedback
  • handle difficult conversations productively—they are able to reject the idea or behavior without rejecting the other person so that communication stays intact
  • use confrontation effectively
  • willingly reveal feelings and are willing to show vulnerability

* social health—building and leveraging relationships for healthy, win-win outcomes.

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Forward this email to your staff or colleagues and use it as a discussion item at your next staff meeting. Some talking points…

  1. How do you handle privacy in your workplace? What is off-bounds and what is considered harmless gossip?
  2. How do you and your team handle elephants in the room?


Why Isn’t This Personal?

We’ve probably all heard the old saying “this isn’t personal, it’s just business”…or some variation on that line. Usually, it’s dragged out when someone is about to be laid off, or a hostile takeover is being launched, or whatever, but the common theme always seems to be that someone is going to get hurt…and that soon-to-be damaged person is the one who is counseled not to take it personally.




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