Relationships Matter

I love Margaret Wheatley’s writing, and she has a great article in Associations Now this month. Really, you should read the whole thing. Herre’s my favorite quote:

Many of our frequent and recurring failures in organizations are a consequence of miscomprehending the importance of relationships. We approach major organizational issues–mergers, accountability, knowledge management, implementation, and change–as if they were engineering issues. We think that if we just develop the right plans, workflows, job descriptions, and project deadlines, everything will roll out smoothly.

But this mechanical approach doesn’t work with humans, because (big news!) humans, are not machines. Despite this fact, we’ve developed quite a robust mythology in which humans are machines that can be bossed around, told what to do, given a minor part to play in a large enterprise, and enticed with external rewards. This misperception is becoming ever more common these days.

Remember, there is nothing wrong with engineering, workflows, and project deadlines. You just get a lot LESS from them when you ignore the relationships. And she brings it right to the issue of leadership:

…employees are far more sensitive to their relationships at work than leaders are. In survey after survey of what people value about their jobs, good relationships with colleagues are always among the top three motivators. (The other two are the ability to learn and the opportunity to contribute. Pay is far down the list.)

As a leader, you must be aware of times when you reward individual performance or use competition to drive results or remain blind to or interfere with the networks your staffs weave together. Do you take advantage of the increased capacities that grow out of good relationships? Have you noticed times when people surprised you with new competencies that didn’t exist before they came together?