Want to make things things better? Respect relationships

One of the greatest mistakes that organisations make is to assume that people are there for the cause.

People attract people. It’s an oldie, but a goodie.

You might think that Joe Bloggs has left his job to come and work for you because of the pay, the benefits and the view from the window. But what really sold it to him was you, or at least the other people he met.

Likewise, voluntary organisations attract people based on the sense of community they offer, not the mission statement.

The professional relationships that form, sometimes over years, run very deep, very quickly. As a manager, if you see one of these relationships, you ignore it at your peril. If one of your colleagues introduces Joe Bloggs as a trusted contact, you might make discreet enquiries to verify Joe’s reputation for yourself, but you never openly question the value of that relationship.

These deep relationships, forged on trust and years of acquaintance mean that Joe Bloggs’ presence is considered by your colleague to be almost as valuable as the job you have given him or her. And after all, who’s to say this isn’t the case? Certainly not you. Unless you can guarantee said colleague a job for life (which I am guessing you can’t).

Likewise, voluntary organisations. You might start off giving up your time and skills because you believe in something. But it’s the people who keep you there.

In the past six months I have had the misfortune to watch a local voluntary organisation tear itself apart, because top down reforms took no account of fundamental friendships that were keeping the organisation going. One person goes, they all follow. Trust buys loyalty, causes do not.

So if you want to make things better, respect your peers and their contacts and relationships. This says more about your attitude to trust and understanding of people, than anything else. You don’t have to like these people, but you do have to respect their connections, and recognise the value they bring.

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