Making every relationship a priority

Followers of my blog will know that one of my greatest sources of inspiration, ideas and, quite simply, an organisation I would love to work for, is the American firm SYPartners. In fact they’ve appeared so much in my blog I recently wrote a post called ‘There’s a lot about SYPartners in here‘!

This latest post focuses on another lesson that I have learnt from them since I stumbled across the company a few years ago – see my post ‘Getting unstuck to make progress‘ to see how and when I stumbled across them.

This new lesson was about how vitally important the relationships between me and each individual member of my team are. Okay, this isn’t necessarily a ground breaking statement or thought, but it’s the way SY deliver it and talk about it that just made so much sense to me.

I first stumbled across their approach in the video of the chairman and founder, Keith Yamashita, when he was speaking at a 99u conference about the 3 successful habits of successful teams. You can watch the video again below:

Keith Yamashita: The 3 Habits of Great Creative Teams from 99U on Vimeo.

In the video Keith talks passionately about the importance of continuously working on, enhancing and nuturing the smallest possible working relationship that you can have – between you + someone.

SY take this so seriously that they even give it a name – Duos.

What are duos?

Having strong duos builds the foundation of good teams. Good duos trust each other. Good duos work well with each other. Good duos allow to positively challenge and improve each other. Good duos are essential.

But, some duos are not strong. Some duos can be neutral. And some duos can be broken. See the picture below from Teamworks:

When I was listening to this video for the first time, I almost missed the point. I heard it. I thought “yeah my relationships with each member of my team are okay – I’m a nice guy and get on with most people”. Then my brain started to move onto the exciting stuff about superpowers [see my superpower post for more info about that!].

And then one day it hit me – this was exactly what Keith was talking about.

How healthy were my duos?

Viewing my relationships as “okay” was the very sin he spoke about. Okay is not good enough. Looking at all my relationships in the same sentence was not good enough. To be a better me I needed to do better. But that meant some uncomfortable thinking, reflection and analysis.

And then it hit me so much it hurt – some of my relationships were not okay.

Whilst reflecting on my duos, I realised that during my life I have had very strong duos from the moment I’ve met people. I’ve had duos that have taken time to develop. I’ve had duos that start strong and turn weak. I’ve had duos that I’ve had to work really hard to develop. And then I’ve had duos that have just not worked and I’ve accepted those.

A broken duo

In fact one of my duos with the biggest problems was in my relationship with one very important person. That relationship was broken. It was fractured. We were clashing. We were not communicating. We were not working as a team. Who was that person? It was my manager.

That relationship had to get better. It was having a negative impact on the team. The rest of my team could feel the friction – and some were making the most of it. We weren’t working together. The trust had gone.

So I realised that we needed to develop our duo.

Mending my broken duo

Obviously one person cannot solve a broken duo. But, one person can start to fix a broken duo.

I started to improve the way I engaged in our relationship. I took the Teamworks advice to give trust before I had earned my managers trust. I started to tackle some of the route causes of the broken duo. I became more communicative and I involved my manager in more of my work as I realised that this was a major issue. Because I had worked for a number of years before quite autonomously I didn’t like the day-to-day control that I was now under. I didn’t like the constant need to seek permission for my actions and decisions. But, I suddenly had a lightbulb moment – the reason that my new manager was working in that way was because they didn’t know me, I hadn’t early their trust yet, they didn’t know me. In one of my earlier posts I have already spoken about how it wasn’t finishing work off properly. And this would continue the vicious circle of our broken duo. How was I supposed to gain their trust if I hadn’t earnt it?

So I started to change that.

I became more open in my 1:1’s. I shared more about my work. I saught advice more. I started to finish tasks to my usual standard. I started to prove myself. I started to be me.

And once I started to be more me, my manager started to be more them.

Our relationship got better. Yes, there were some very uncomfortable conversations at the beginning. Yes, it took time. Yes, there have been ups and downs since. But, we are now in a much better place.

We have a better understanding and appreciation of each other. We have more trust of each other. We have a more communicative relationship.

We now have a strong duo.

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