Four Secrets To Resilient Relationships
If I could offer only one piece of leadership advice it would be:
Create the strongest relationships possible.
Here are four foundational principles that underpin resilient relationships.
Truly Care for Them
As I write this, I can’t help but notice how ordinary this advice seems. In a way, I feel like I am saying something cliché. But my friend, truly caring is actually a rare quality. I know we all think we do, but we can all improve in developing and expressing genuine compassion for others’ well-being.
Truly caring is not motivated by reward. It is not a tactic you employ to get others to follow you. No! We must care because it is an authentic core value we have. Don’t care so that others will see that you care. On the contrary, from your heart of hearts demonstrate how much you would sacrifice and give to another person.
Not only must you care for them, but you must expect the same in return. Several times, when the timing was right, I have told those in my inner circle, “I expect that you care for me, that you love me.” And after a funny look, they smile. They know it sounds a bit awkward. But they also know what I mean, because hopefully I have demonstrated it first.
As a leader, when it comes to caring, you must go first. Demonstrate it, then ask for it. If people cannot give it to me, I exit the relationship. I do it with as much grace as I can. I am not looking for a cold, professional relationship with anyone I am working with. I am looking for something warm, personal, and iron clad. I am looking for a heart-bond. Professionalism and other boundaries should be sprinkled on top to season a relationship, not to define it.
Generosity is a value. It does not speak to money only. It is a way you treat others with honor and value. Generosity is about giving. So if I am generous, I aim to give you everything I can. Then you give me everything you can. Again though, the leader must initiate generosity.
Nothing makes me happier than to see the people I lead prosper. Do you know why? (Hint: The answer is found in the first rule.) Sometimes, I cannot give as much money or resources as I’d like. But when generosity comes from the heart, we are offering people much more value than we ever could with money and resources. Be generous in making people feel valuable—because they are.
I don’t know about you, but it means so much more to me when someone gives me their time, encouragement, heart, or a smile than it does to receive their money or other tangible resources. We can be generous with others by just by giving them a chance—by just believing in them.
Generosity is a personal trait that we as leaders must commit to continually renew and develop. Why? Because humans are naturally selfish. I urge us today to renew our values of generosity.
Be Transparent and Clear
I have been told that I am a softy as a leader. Even though that’s not how I like to see myself, I am okay with it. I prefer being a softy and getting stepped on sometimes than being pompous and offensive. With gentleness you can do so much more. You can sleep better at night because you honor people’s dignity.
But that quality has also presented a problem for me as a leader. At times, I could not and did not speak my mind just because I wanted to be nice. My reluctance to express myself caused problems in the relationships I was building. Then I discovered the solution: be transparent and be clear. Wait for the right time, and say it in the right tone. Don’t be pushy or overbearing. You can even say what you need to say in small doses if needed.
I am talking now about the key relationships in your life. If you have someone who is openly disregarding the sanctity of your house, as a leader please stand up firmly, quickly, and strongly. But any time possible, especially with those key relationships in your life, be gingerly.
There is much to be said of the value of being candor. But in the name of candor we can also destroy. We can crush dreams and suffocate hopes. Effective candor requires finesse. In order to build strong relationships, you must let the other person know what is important to you, what your deal breakers and your boundaries are. But the trick is in the timing and the tone. You must wait for the right time and say it in the right way. Sometimes, I have literally waited a year to tell someone something. They were not ready to hear it. If I had said it earlier, I may have spoken my piece, but the relationship would have fallen to pieces.
This step takes maturity. But we must grow in this area. We must be transparent and clear. And we must balance that by demonstrating dignity and honoring people’s boundaries.
Give Them Time
In the life of a healthy growing relationship, I have seen that something happens to the depth and trust of the connection around these times:
- A few months
- A year
- Three to five years
- Over five years
These milestones may differ for you and with each specific relationship. But for me, if the relationship is growing, I find a deeper level of relational maturity around each time period above. So if after the year mark, I still feel the same connection and trust that I felt at a few months, usually there is something wrong.
With a few people I have worked with for years, there is almost a blind trust, like a family bond. But remember, time alone will not do it. When I say “give it time,” I do not mean to just sit on a relationship and hope it gets better. It won’t. While you should be patient when an issue arises, you also must resolve it and work on it. In the best relationships, just like wine, time makes them richer—but only if you are delicate with them and intentional to make them grow.
Finally my friend, remember that God places people in your life. Honor them. Learn how to build strong relationships. Be careful with what you say and with your tone of voice, because like a dropped glass, sometimes broken relationships cannot be repaired. As my brother Roger once told me, whether in leadership or in life, he said, “Wes, relationships matter!”
For Further Reading: