Every relationship begins with courtship. We meet, we talk, we see if we are a good fit. If not, we move on. If so, we rejoice and continue building relationships.
But not at work…We need each other at work
But at work, sometimes we cannot move on. We need certain relationships to get work done. We either have dependencies or we require stakeholder involvement and approval.
So what then?
My theory is that we are born connectors. We all able to connect with ANYONE. Take two enemies, who have messy histories together, and put them on an island with no food or shelter and you’ll find they’ll most likely partner to survive.
Why? The island and situation brought them together (it’s no surprise that natural disasters are the cause of more babies than the hottest club).
It’s the Context
The context (the island in the previous example) creates the opportunity for relationship building. Any context does that and it makes a huge difference.
You and I each go to work, and our physical location allows us to build relationships with people there. If we weren’t there, it would be INCREDIBLY harder to build those relationships and get work done (this is why working with people remotely, and long-distance relationships ahem, are so difficult).
When you start a new job, you work at a location (a context). Everyone is a stranger, but they all work at the office (a context).
Then, you meet your team. Your team sits and interacts in one location (another context).
Then you are given a project (another context). The project allows you to work with a smaller set of individuals who you get to know.
You may be reading this and thinking – so what? What’s the biggie Monish. Well, it’s important to understand that teams tend to be in silos and because of that, we can lose out.
We end up interacting with people the most in the following order:
- Teams *
- Projects *
- Other Teams in your department
- Other Teams in other departments
- Other companies
Teams and projects are the easiest contexts to build relationships. Teams are no different than tribes. You all have a common purpose. The relationship is almost default.
Projects require energy. More specifically, they require “synergy” (yes, I used the S word today). After a successful project, the courtship goes from “strangers” to war buddies. The reverse can happen too when projects go bad. People go from stranger to enemies. Either way, the context allows for relationships to be built.
But what about Other Teams and Companies?
A job that we have limits our relationships (and I don’t mean it’s a bad limitation – it simply is a limitation). It gives us a scope. It gives us an office and the people who are working there. In fact, the building floor you are on, limits you.
To go above and beyond, to accomplish greater goals, you need to spend your time beyond projects and teams. You MUST to build relationships across teams and across departments.
And sometimes your current context doesn’t allow for that. If you spend 90% of your time in a project or engaging with your team, you are missing out on opportunities to build relationships across teams/departments/companies SIMPLY because there is no context that supports it yet.
Building relationshipsacross teams/departments/companies is tough. You don’t have the safety net of your team and project to build that relationship for you. This is why people go to networking events. There is either no context for further opportunities and relationships in their office context OR they would like to be exposed to more people and opportunities beyond their office context.
The Person Who Creates the Context is Leading
To be a creator of context, makes you a host and by default a leader. To create a platform or to run a group that brings people together and allows for relationships to build, is to go above and beyond what most people do – which is stick to projects and teams.
Think about it. To throw a party for your family is easy. But to throw a party for your entire extended family (cousins, uncles, aunts) is more difficult. If you are the host and bring people together you MUST expend more energy and time to make it happen. But the payoff is connection and more relationships built. More work can be accomplished. More ideas can spread and engagement increases.
But what about annoying people?
I don’t have all the answers. I just know that creating situations for relationships to build is better than trying to build the relationships themselves. It takes a LOT of work to contact someone, but it’s easier to join them at a networking event.
But the big question is: what about the relationships that are ANNOYING? Oftentimes we are stuck working with people who are annoying on our teams or projects and we would like them to go away.
Well, so long as a context exist, there is hope for a relationship. The worst relationship is the one that doesn’t exist because people don’t interact AT ALL. They are no in the same space or time to do so.
Consider context then as the only hope for reconciliation.
But I also see it as the aggravating factor as well. When you have a nightmare manager, the dream job is the one where you work remotely and don’t have to see his face everyday.
What are your thoughts? Is context as important as I make it sound? Any thoughts on how people fit into the equation – especially people who are annoying.
I am learning as I am going – but wanted to share what I know so far. Would love to hear from you!