As the Names Change the Game Stays the Same: Business Success is a Function of Relationship Competence


So what’s going on? What’s your game, global, virtual, knowledge, experience or value based? OK, so some of us work at home, some work across the planet but aren’t there some simple truths about people at work (wherever they are) that we have put off accepting for as long as we could. Here, let’s try this…

  • Anything of benefit to more than one person takes more than one person to accomplish.

Is that really so hard to accept? Apparently!

Or how about these words from a website promoting an on-line collaboration/project management tool they have developed… The post is titled ‘There is Nothing Virtual About On-line Project Management”…

“The most important thing to remember is that in any successful project,success is underpinned by the connection of people, and the influence, input and decision makingthey forge together. This can only be achieved with productive working relationships, based on trust and the understanding of what each member of the team is bringing to the table.”

Duh!……….. Was that too harsh?

Then there are quotes like these, both of which appeared in a recent blog post by Louise Altman

“Now science teaches me that my actions are constrained by the relationships I find myself in and that I have to account for how others think.”

                                         Management Rewired, Charles S. Jacobs, 2010

“Teams of diverse people cannot be thrown together. They must be deliberately put together to minimize the potential for threat responses. Trust cannot be assumed or mandated, nor can empathy or even goodwill be compelled. These qualities develop only when people’s brains start to recognize former strangers as friends. This requires time and social interaction.”

                                        David Rock, ‘Your Brain at Work’, 2009

Wow, it’s like we just woke up after two millenia of slumber  to realize that  it is not simply the people, it is the relationships they forge and sustain that are the key ingredient of organizational success…well some are waking up. 

 So let’s make an agreement, let’s agree to stop calling the mastery of relationships at work the “soft stuff” and call it what it really is, the “hardest stuff”. There is an art to relationship competence; there is a science to it. The truths about successful relationship construction are more than worthy of study, they are necessary to master, not by once attending a two day workshop on “conflict management” or “how to handle difficult people” but with an approach that is ongoing, regular, with diligence like Geoff Colvin spoke about when he popularized the term Deliberate Practice in ‘Talent is Overrated.

Look, there is even an institute for Social Capital Research where energy and study has been put into defining “Social Capital” and the means for the acquisition of this scarce and transitory resource. An institute for gosh sakes! How much more proof do you need that it is time to invest in relationship mastery?

And of course from think tanks like this we get actionable direction like so…

“Social capital is about the value of social networks, bonding similar people and bridging between diverse people, with norms of reciprocity.”


Look…we are not very good at needing each other. I know that word “need” gives you the willies so let me be more specific, we are not very good at authentically, honestly depending on each other. Try this, try saying to a co-worker or manager or direct report sometime soon, “I really need you.” I bet you cannot do it without sweaty palms.

  • The sweaty palms should be the give away that you have something to learn here. 


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