Monday, December 7, 2009

Coaching Lessons: Relationship Management

Do you ever think that your relationships should be professionally managed? We have consultants to help us manage our businesses, but we rarely think that our relationships need managing.

Something in the mind goes tilt when we try to see relationships within context of the shop floor or the publicity team.

In an office the roles are usually well-defined. They are subsumed under a higher and well-defined purpose. At least they are supposed to be clear to all involved. And yet, according to Peter Drucker, many people in the business world forget that they are not dealing with corporate functions but with living, breathing human beings.

Drucker's article on "self-management" is linked here. For my comments on other aspects of his essay, see this link and its connecting links.

In the first parts of his essay Drucker explained that self-management begins with knowing your superskills, figuring out how and under what circumstances you perform at your best, and then knowing your value, your values.

After these exercises in self-evaluation you should find out where you belong and what you can contribute to the enterprise.

All told, a nice excursion from the individual to the group, from discovering your best to giving your best to your company.

But, if you have your strengths and weaknesses, your faults and foibles, your tastes and distastes... so does everyone else. When Drucker says that we must all be aware that we dealing with human beings, he is telling us that we need to adapt to the different ways different people do their jobs. But his reasoning also implies that we need to manage our relationships with these other people.

To do so means that we first recognize that the world is not filled with our clones. Never think that everyone is just like you, and never imagine that your new boss is just like your last boss. If you do not take the time to get to know the new boss, if you act as though he is the old boss, then certainly you will be having difficulties with him.

For refusing to recognize him for who he is you will be insulting him and mismanaging your relationship.

Why do we do this? Most likely, because we are lazy. It takes effort to get to know a new person and it takes even more effort to adapt our behavior to put it into harmony with that of each new person.

The rules applies well to business and professional relationships. But it also applies to more intimate relationships. Every couple finds its own rhythm, whether in its daily routines or in its lovemaking.

When relationships end and the two people go out to find new lovers, they will be tempted to maintain the same daily routines and even the same lovemaking with their new partners. Dare I say that this will not advance the new relationships.

And ask yourself this: do you consider that your spouse is your clone? Do you expect that he or she will react and respond just as you do? Do you think that your spouse has the same goals, the same needs, the same skills, the same style, and the same mode of interaction?

In a personal relationship, some people need more conversation; some need less. Some people need more time alone; some need less. Some people are at their best in one-on-one situations; some thrive in company.

Since it is nearly impossible for two people to have exactly the same need and the same skills, you will be called upon to adapt to the other person, to negotiate differences, and to strive toward domestic harmony.

If you don't, your relationship is heading for trouble. You will be introducing friction. Failing to deal with the real person at hand will almost surely lead to dramas and conflict.

When Drucker says that his clients most often complained about personality conflicts, he means that they have not spent enough time learning to respect each other for what is unique to them.

In a company different people belong to different departments performing different roles. It often happens that one department does not know what the other is doing, and how their different jobs fit together in the corporate whole.

Drucker proposes solving this problem with more open communication. When the accounting department does not know what the marketers do and neither of them is very sure what the programmers are up to, no one has any real idea of how his or her job contributes to the greater good.

The same rule applies to relationships. People who are intimately connected owe it to themselves and each other to share enough information so that each knows roughly how the other spends the day.

And people who are intimates also owe it to themselves to share enough information so that they can organize a life together.

You have no real business not keeping your partner in the loop about your business or professional activities. And you should never simply disappear for hours on end without offering a heads-up to your partner.

Since therapy has made a fetish of sharing feelings, it is important to emphasize the sharing of information. It is fine to explain how you feel about what is going on in your office or in the neighborhood, but to conduct a good relationship you need also to share factual information.

I will leave it to you to judge which is worse: too few facts or too few feelings?

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