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If Relationships Are Currency, It Is Time to Invest

| June 29, 2021

by Sean McDonald

[Today’s Tuesday Reading is from Sean McDonald, Vice-President of MOR Associates. Sean may be reached at [email protected].]

Like you, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about relationships over the course of my life, especially these past 15 months. Given the work MOR does, my reflection often explores the connections between relationships and results. Two household names highlight this connection for me in Paul Revere and Rosa Parks.

As we approach the July 4th holiday we are reminded of this country’s beginning and the results accomplished during that time. This march to independence had a pivotal moment in April 1775 when a large number of British soldiers were embarking on Boston. Paul Revere and other riders quickly spread the word and stirred a community to action. They were able to move people to action because of the revolutionary relationships they had. They invested in these relationships long before they needed them, they were credible, and aligned in vision.

Same goes for Rosa Parks. There were others in Montgomery that had been arrested for sitting in the wrong seat of a segregated bus prior to Parks. And prior to these times, boycotting was not a familiar thing to people in Montgomery. As circumstances stirred and Rosa Parks was arrested, it was the caliber of her network that helped shift the actions of an entire community toward the historical bus boycott. She had been the secretary at the local NAACP chapter, an involved member at her church, and part of at least a half-dozen volunteer groups. She was connected with many across the community and held in high regard. They knew what she stood for.

What results are you expected to deliver upon in the year ahead? In the arc of Respond-Adapt-Transform, as we look ahead at the transformation to come, what relationships do you need in place, who do you need to be aligned on vision with, who needs to know what you stand for?

As we evolve along this global crisis, a time when most people narrowed the focus of their relationships, how will you widen your reach? For the many Tuesday Reading subscribers, they will be familiar with the 4 I’s of Relationship Building; Initiate, Inquire, Invest, and Influence. The results of this process are exhibited well in the stories of Paul Revere and Rosa Parks.  Influence comes from work done long before there is a call to action. We lay the groundwork through the first three I’s.  This starts with taking the initiative.

The two primary obstacles I hear about for not initiating relationship building are time and comfort. For both of these the answer is found in the formation of new practices.  That is, intentionally repeating an action in service of a goal. You will never “find time.”  We all have the same amount of time.  It is how we prioritize spending it that matters. If the results you are pursuing are important, and your efforts may benefit from this eventual influence, prioritize the time now to make small advances with relationship building. In stepping out of comfort zones as well, we benefit from a thought out process and routine that will aid the formation of a new practice, toward an eventual new habit.

I’ll add an additional “I” that is needed in this evolved context we are operating in, when we may no longer be in the same office suite, building, campus or state as the people we were building relationships with just a year-and-a-half ago: intentionality. We now need to elevate our intentionality in who we reach out to, who we connect with, who we build relationships with. We no longer bump into people in the halls, cafeteria, or campus courtyards. Below are some sample practices you can seek to adopt.  Consider these now.  If you wait you may miss the chance to call others to action when the circumstances line up to do so.

  • Each week carve out time, even if only 10 minutes, to review your stakeholder maps. These maps chart out on the X-axis those who have interest in an effort you are working on and, on the Y-axis, those who have influence in this result you are pursuing. Use this simple grid to plan for your weekly initiating and investing.
  • Reviewing your stakeholder map with a team is even better. Divide, conquer, and share back.
  • When you connect with these people on your stakeholder map, ask them who else you should be talking to and add them to this grid. These small steps are the best way out of echo chambers and a move toward community bridge building.
  • For many, we are held back from reaching out because we feel we might be wasting their time. This is why we recommend tying this effort to a shared interest and shared result. Plan ahead with questions and discussion points you will inquire about. For example:
    • I’d like to understand where you and your group are going so that this result aligns to your evolving need
    • I’d like to gain your perspective on… (an item they have interest in and/or influence over)
    • I would like your feedback on our update about the trajectory of the result.
      With a well planned agenda and outline you can have these very important and effective conversations in 15 minutes.
  • Be sure to add colleagues and other peer groups to this stakeholder map, it is not just the end user that needs to engage and support these results.
  • Another practice for those already testing their comfort zones: given our wandering minds, in this new heavily remote world when someone crosses your mind for some random reason, reach out to them, let them know. Use that as a touchpoint in ongoing investments in relationships that are important to you.

You know your context and need best, so regardless of the above recommendations, set up the right practice for you, the right repeatable actions to step forward in the process of building relationships.  Do this daily or weekly.  However small, start today.