What are the Biggest Mistakes Leaders Make Regarding Relationship Building

biggest mistakes leaders make

My editor at Routledge’s Productivity Press Michael Sinocchi, asked me this question. He posted this response on the Lean Insider blog.

At the beginning of this month, Diana Jones published an insightful book entitled Leadership Levers Releasing the Power of Relationships for Exceptional Participation, Alignment, and Team Results, which contends that leadership and collaboration are primarily a matter of principles and process and not personality and content alone.

Her book reveals the leadership levers to release the power of relationships for exceptional participation, alignment, and results in organizations. It enables leaders to mine the brilliance that often lies dormant and untapped within their organizations. If leaders master the process, they achieve consistent results.

When I spoke with Diana a few weeks ago, I asked her: “What are the biggest mistakes leaders make regarding relationship building?” Here is her complete answer:

There are three. 

The first mistake leaders make is that they think it is the relationship between themselves and their executives is paramount. What they fail to recognize is that the quality relationships among their leaders, and among leaders and staff are crucial to releasing the brilliance that lies in their organizations — when these relationships are based on high-quality informal connections, based on shared life experiences and values, and not people’s professional identities, formal structure, or job function. 

The second mistake is that leaders think their information and content are more important than creating meeting environments where people want to give their best. Volumes of papers that are habitually delivered at short notice remain the modus operandi of many business and government organizations. This has to stop.

Leaders who shift from preparing screeds of content to attending to the first four minutes of every meeting engender vitality and stellar contributions. They do this with six steps. They begin with an inclusive welcome, by being appreciative, making an anticipatory ‘I’ statement, acknowledging the experience and expertise in the room. They focus ruthlessly on the outcome they want for their organization and go backward from there, and they craft a question that mines their audiences’ experience and expertise. In essence, they create a process for participation. These six steps enable participants to ‘arrive’, and bring their best selves to the table. The leader can relax as participants do the work through their experience and expertise. 

The third mistake is that leaders underestimate the power of moments where new people enter groups or new groups form. These are crucial moments. Leaders can learn how people get to know one another and work well together rapidly. Gone are the days where people take years to get to know one another from working together, or via dinners, or overnight team development sessions. Every leader today needs to have this capacity in their mindset and toolkit. 

Overall, there is a mindset shift for leaders, that they cease being meeting leaders and become guardians of group development.

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