Relationship First Management

Below are few principles that summarize my today’s prospective on management and role of relationships:

1. Relationships are more important than deadlines

Many relationships were broken over business deadlines, pressures and stress, sometimes through burnouts. Generally when there is a case of burnout, it is extremely hard to then preserve the relationship.

The key issue with deadlines is that they are flexible in 99.9% of cases. Good managers understand that. Bad managers would pressure employees and break relationships. As a result, among broken relationships and employee exodus every possible deadline is also missed by a lot.

2. Relationships outlast current work environment

Extrapolating on the previous idea, this is just something else to always keep in mind. Former employee may become your friend or your customer in the future. Good relationship would help there. Broken relationship can do a great degree of damage.

3. Supervisor is 80% responsible, supervisee is 20% responsible

Supervisee has an important role in any relationship-building. Another way to phrase this is to say that the manager cannot succeed without supervisee doing their fair share. If it does not work, it does not work – and best would be to realize this as early as possible.

4. Not too late

While the relationship still exists it is not too late to start working on it. If the employee hasn’t quit yet, even if there were a lot of issues in the past and the relationship is brittle, it is not too late to improve things.

Note, that it can get too late if the employee quits. But while you are still working together, you can improve.

5. Team – not Family

Several CEOs came with this idea recently. I just want to emphasize that explicit comparison of work environment with family brings all sorts of family-specific psychological issues into work. In many cases it might not be pretty.

6. Not always “unicorns and rainbows”

To preserve psychological safety in the team, sometimes you need to be really harsh. Recent concept of psychological safety is great and correct. It helps greatly with relationships and also drives up team productivity.

However, thinking about psychological safety, many understand is as a sort of “unicorns and rainbows” relationship. In reality, what this means – is you need to be harsh with employees who try to attack other employees. In other words, manager’s role is to make sure that any psychologically unsafe behaviour is NOT tolerated.

7. Start with relationship

Or “Relationship First Management”. This is just to summarize the above. Indeed all traditional management thought process still makes sense. It still applies and is still important.

But what I want to say is that relationships are more important than anything else. Because if you cannot manage the relationships, nothing else would work.

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