How are your relationships?

In business, we are always in a relationship. This article explains the different relationships we have and shares some tips for how to cultivate successful relationships for better business outcomes.

The three relationships

In our business (or life), three relationships exist. The relationship we have with ourselves, the relationship we have with others (in a given situation), the relationship we have to that situation (issue/event/context).

The extent to which we are aware of these relationships and the extent to which we can have appreciation for the associated dynamics, the more likely we are to get a better outcome with whatever we are seeking to achieve. Be that achieving a business goal, or resolving a business challenge.

The selfish human

As humans living in our own brains, we have a tendency to only think of ourselves. We are inherently selfish beings. A degree of selfishness is essential to ensure our literal survival. However, as humans, we cannot survive alone. To thrive, we rely on social structures which enable us to share resources and achieve greater things.

When we have more awareness of ourselves, of others, and of our operating context, we are able to see things from a different perspective. We are opened up to new possibilities and we can create better outcomes for our business.

Know thyself

How is your relationship with yourself? Why does it matter that we explore the relationship we have with ourselves?

Our relationship with ourselves basically means how we think of ourselves, how we feel about ourselves and how we treat ourselves. The way we do this is rooted in the experiences and upbringing we had. Many of our beliefs and the ways in which in which we operate are taken for granted and are assumed to be ours, when in fact, they have been cultivated by external influences. This means that limiting or unhelpful beliefs we have inherited or assumed to be ours can be changed and replaced with beliefs that are more useful to achieving the things we want.

Know thy neighbour

In my coaching practice I have coached founders of companies jointly and business partners individually. In every context, these clients have sought out executive coaching because of a business challenge. And in every case, part of the underlying root cause was about how my clients were relating to one another.

Taking time to consider a situation from the other person’s perspective (be that a business partner, romantic partner, challenging employee or a tricky customer) we get to understand what might be going on for them. We generate compassion for the things that they may be experiencing (the things they might be worried about or longing for) and we create solutions which satisfy both parties.

Know thy context

One of my favourite coaching models by American Life Coach Brooke Castillo, is grounded in the principle that our circumstances are always neutral. This means they are neither good nor bad.

Why does this principle matter?

Operating by this principle means that at all times, we retain our sense of agency. Having agency stops us from slipping into “victim” mode where we (falsely) believe that things are being done “to us” and where we have no control. Of course we cannot control the things that happen, but we do have control over how we respond.

For instance, if you miss the bus, the fact that you missed the bus is already in the past. You cannot change it, it is now a fact. All you can do is chose how to respond to this fact.

Do you chose to get upset or angry? Do you then snap at the next person you speak to or blame someone else for the fact you missed the bus? What kind of outcome might you generate here? Hint: it’s unlikely to be positive!

Or, do you experience a moment of frustration and then chose to accept the fact and consider what other options you have? For instance, if you’re going to be late for a meeting, call ahead and offer an apology. Maybe call a taxi if you can still make it on time, or use the extra time to listen to a podcast and learn something new. What kind of outcome might you generate now?!

The purpose of coaching is to generate increased levels of awareness of ourselves, of others and of the situation, so that we can choose a better response.

Which do you need to work on?

Which relationships in your business would benefit from some increased attention? How can you start to generate more awareness for these relationships? And how can you start to improve them?

Every improvement we wish to make begins with awareness about the relationship. In my coaching practice with clients, I introduce the concepts of “Curiosity” and “Compassion”. Curiosity is a willingness to explore what is going on in an impartial way which means we are able to unearth new insights. Compassion is having no judgement and sympathy for the other party which enables us to minimise any negative feelings we might be harbouring, which lead us to respond in negative and often hurtful ways.

Here are some coaching questions that will get you thinking about your relationships:

  • How is your own inner voice? How do you speak to yourself in your mind? Do you have respect and compassion for yourself or do you chide yourself and the things you do? E.g. “I’m stupid for doing that thing”? The way we speak to ourselves drives how we treat ourselves. If we don’t take care of ourselves first, how can we possibly take care of others, or our business?
  • What is the outcome that you are seeking in this relationship or situation? Why does it matter to you?
  • What might be the outcome that the other person is seeking? Why would that matter to them?
  • What assumptions could you be making about you, the other person or the current situation?
  • How might these assumptions be hindering the outcome you are seeking?
  • What options do you have for how to respond? Which of these options might generate a more positive outcome?