It is said that one of the key differences between leaders and staff is that leaders are supposed to spend significantly more time on relationships, while staff tend to concentrate on the task at hand.
A number of professors from the University of Virginia indicated that leaders who didn’t spend at least 50% of their time and effort on relationship building, tended to be much less successful professionally.
According to them, there are 3 areas of professional competence–i.e. necessary skill-sets:
1) Technical–what you need to know in terms of subject matter expertise to do your job (e.g. finance, engineering, sales, etc.)
2) Cognitive–these are the information-processing abilities to reason and problem-solve (e.g. perception, learning, judging, insight, etc.)
3) Relationship–this is interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence (e.g. teaming, motivating, resolving-conflict, influencing, etc.)
As you role changes from staff to supervisor and to manager, so does your time spent:
– Staff: Technical 60%, Cognitive 20%, Relationships 20%
– Supervisors: Technical 40%, Cognitive 25%, Relationships 35%
– Manager: Technical 15%, Cognitive 35%, Relationships 50%
In others words, as you advance from staff to management, you job changes from being the “technical expert” to spending more time solving specific problems and building relationships.
Additionally, managers who delegated, supported, trusted, and empowered, and didn’t micromanage the tasks–we’re the kinds of managers/leaders that people wanted to work for and would give more of themselves to.
So leaders who excel at building meaningful professional relationships, benefit not only from developing important and trusting networks of people around them, but also from actually developing a more satisfied and productive workforce.
Relationship building is much more than the proverbial “3-martini lunch,”–although 1 or 2 don’t hurt :-)–rather it means:
1) Identifying and surrounding yourself with people that are smarter than yourself–relationships are most fruitful and enjoyable with someone that can challenge you.
2) Reaching outside your “normal” boundaries (organizational, functional, industry, geography) to diversify the sphere of influence–new ideas and best practices are not limited to any one domain.
3) Ensuring that integrity and trust are cornerstones of any any relationship–there is no compromising values and principles for any relationship!
4) Giving of yourself in terms of self-disclosure, assistance to others, and our most precious resource of time–relationships are not built on thin air, but involve work by both parties; it’s an investment.
Finally, while relationship-building is critical to leadership success, it is important to surround ourselves with the “right” people as Harvard Business Review (July-August 2011) states this month: “Bring people with positive energy into your inner circle. If those around you are enthusiastic, authentic, and generous, you will be too.”
So choose your professional network as carefully as you would choose your friends.