The “R” Factor

In a past newsletter, Senior Associate Ellen Kendall shared some thought-provoking perspective on the importance of relationships in the workplace – a perspective that has proven to be very accurate over the past two-or-so years.

Somehow along the evolutionary path of business and commerce, it appears some of us became increasingly enamored with the efficiency that a mechanistic and impersonal focus could bring us, and concentrated on using the “hands” of employees at the neglect of
employing their hearts and minds.

We created command and control hierarchical organizations and an emphasis on functional competency and silos. In the process, we lost sight of the human need for connection and interaction and minimized the importance of productive and meaningful relationships.

Or, said another way, in the words of Don Corleone in the movie, The Godfather, “It’s not personal, it’s business.”

But for many the pendulum is swinging back, as more of us are finding that the old attitude about separating business from personal issues no longer serves us well.

In fact, there is increasing belief that becoming more personal in the workplace might actually work to the advantage of organizations; and topics such as trust, interpersonal relationships, engagement, coaching, mentoring, and values-based leadership are now critical in an increasing number of organizations.

Similarly, it is becoming more evident that relationships, and the quality of relationships in the workplace, do matter. For example, Mike Morrison, VP and Dean of Toyota University in an interview went so far as to boldly say, “My message to leaders is actually quite simple: It’s the relationship… stupid!”

He went on to suggest that human capital is useless without relationships — particularly in our fast-paced, global economy — and that leaders can be best measured by their ability to create social capital or the sum total of all their relationships.

“It is through this network of relationships that their work is conducted,” Morrison stated. “As leaders, we need to be relentless relationship-builders and be 100 times more deliberate about relating to people.

“Work is much more relational than it was twenty years ago, when you could have narrow, clearly defined jobs. Those jobs don’t exist anymore… today we get work done through others… in today’s world we achieve results primarily through relationships.”

Morrison concluded that relationships are truly the most effective pathway to the highest levels of commitment, creativity, and performance within organizations. The reason is that positive
relationships have a transformational impact on the individual. They draw out the best in each of us.

Management guru Peter F. Drucker also commented on the need to focus on workplace relationships.

“Increasingly, command and control is being replaced by or intermixed with all kinds of relationships,” he said.

“Alliances, joint ventures, minority participations, partnerships, know-how, and marketing agreements… these are all relationships in which no one controls and no one commands. These relationships have to be based on a common understanding of objectives, policies, and strategies; on teamwork; and on persuasion — or they don’t work at all”.

Spring boarding off of these respected viewpoints, we’ll take a deeper dive into the value of the “R” factor in our next post.