How many of your relationships have become merely transactional? Meaning that you consciously evaluate what you’re getting our of them as against what you invest?
Some of our relationships, work or private, turn transactional over time, others have never worked in the first place. We feel cheated as our values are being stepped on, say by missed appointments, ignored emails, or low quality work contribution after lots of nagging.
When that happens, the relationship is disempowered. That can happen quickly. And most of us drag along quite a number of disempowered relationships in life and work, as many people prefer to go silent as if by circumstance rather than taking a closer look at what doesn’t work.
But leaving a relationship is not always possible, and sometimes it’s premature.
The fact is that we do have the means to return power to our relationships if only we wish to do so. We seize the opportunity of growing ourselves and others when allowing for a conversation about our needs, expectations, and perspectives and inviting them to share theirs, before discarding someone. Creating and keeping clean relationships is an important leadership skill. So what are the ingredients?
First, we have to create a safe space and share: What do we need to be able to have an honest, creative, and explorative, and most likely edgy, conversation?
Second, we need to understand and name what causes frustration in our relationship, and does not work for us anymore.
I do find it hard, and so far I have always been richly rewarded when I have dared explore my own thoughts and reactions not before but during the conversation with the other person who turns into a witness of my thought process.
I also have lots of experience in being overwhelming and silencing other when coming into a conversation with everything fully analysed and all of my arguments and accusations ready at hand. Ditching my headstart and comfort, and starting with sharing what I observe, the assumptions about the other and their behaviour I have been making up, and owning the impact of those assumptions on me, has transformed more than one of my relationships! In fact, the most powerful experience I have ever had, was one of those conversations.
Third, we need to suspend our judgment. How?
Curiosity is the antidote to judgment, both towards ourselves and others.
When we see each other with fresh eyes, it creates such a powerful invitation to step back into a relationship.
Fourth, acknowledging goes a long way: Acknowledging the other person, both of our courage to show up honestly, our different perspectives and values, creates respect and responsibility alike. No matter where we take the relationship henceforth: We get to a place where we might still differ in opionion and simply want different things, but we are able to value the person and need not waste our time pondering about their being difficult.
This frees an incredible amount of energy that we had much rather spent on creating outstanding results.
Leaders create space for honest conversations, and invite others to show up fully so that energy can be spent for creating good work, rather than on office politics and maneuvers to get other perform the way we want them to.