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Time, task, relationship... which comes first for you?

This is the eighth in the series of posts about ‘relational learning’; how we learn about ourselves through our relationships with others and what's going on in our lives. This week, I'm exploring how time and task can affect our relationships.

The spaciousness of time seems to be elusive for many people I meet at the moment and I wonder what this does to our relationships? It’s raised the question, what is getting our ATTENTION? The relationship, time or task?

Prompted by conversations last week about the interdependence between the relationship and task, I’ve created a simple 4 box grid to capture my experience and thoughts.

  • Along one axis is the dimension of time. Spacious time is the sensation of having a lot of time in which to do something. It’s when time does not feel constrained to a limited period. Limited time is when it’s restricted, the time is experienced as very brief.

  • Along the other dimension is purpose: stretching from when it is pre-defined before meeting through to when it is not known if there is a shared purpose or interest.

It strikes me that there are different questions that we ask or seek answers to when we have working relationships in these different contexts. The questions posed in each box are my reflections this afternoon. What about you, how do the elements of time & purpose affect what you ask when you get together with people?

Quadrant 1 - Spacious time and a clear purpose of working together. This reminds me of the start of projects, of gathering the team of people together when the project has not yet gathered it’s own life force. It feels like there is time to get to know each other within the context of the task.

Quadrant 2 - There’s a feeling of time, but we’ve no idea what connects us. Take a long international flight; you are seated next to a stranger with the luxury of time stretching ahead. A bit like with the person in your office you walk past everyday. If you don’t say hello at the beginning and ask their name, has the moment gone forever? It can be an awkward place to be; coaching clients raise their challenge with purposeless conversations, aka ‘networking’. I hear them say - ‘they don’t have any reason to meet with me; I don’t want to waste their time’.

Quadrant 3 - Limited time and no idea of connection. For some reason, I’m reminded of watching individuals go on speed dating. The closest I can get to this in an organisational setting is the gathered group of direct reports for a weekly update meeting. Each report has their own responsibilities, there is no great need to work with anyone else in the team and there are only the couple of minutes at the start of thee meeting for informal conversation. It’s easy to slip into pleasantries & establish our similarities of life experiences.

Quadrant 4 - Time is limited and we’ve a job to get done together. It’s easy to imagine this in organisational settings. I have a strong ‘performance’ driver to get things done well and to do them in a timely way, so my natural tendency for years was to briefly cover the pleasantries in order to get to the task. A good meeting was a ‘purposeful’ meeting. Hmmm, so why then did everything agreed in the meeting not always get progressed?

I thought that writing these posts would get quicker as I got into my flow, however, each week they feel like they take a little bit longer. They are requiring me to reflect and to go deeper in order to explore what I mean by relational learning. I have to take myself from a desire to get it done in an hour (Quadrant 4), and shift up into Quadrant 1. If it is to be worthwhile and meet my original intention, it means letting go of other stuff to be done and giving it the attention it deserves.

But if letting go of other stuff doesn’t feel like a viable option and there is no more time, is it possible to shift the relationship into a deep level of rapport & depth?

The answer may lie within each of us, to bring our full presence into each relationship. Not just our physical presence, but a deeper more connected presence. Watch this short video to see how strangers being mostly silent together for just 4 minutes, transforms their connection.

This week, experiment with paying attention to where you naturally orientate towards: time, task or relationship. How do they appear in your life? How do you know that? Where in your body do you experience it?

Next week, I’m going to do a Part 2, and continue to explore ways of shifting the depth in relationships for each of the four quadrants. Right now, I’m experiencing time as a distraction, my mind moving onto what else I want to achieve with my day!

So far in the series:

  1. Introduction to Relational Learning

  2. How Relational Learning shows you what you value in life

  3. Learning through inaction and distraction

  4. Let's go fly a kite

  5. Who are you really?

  6. How intentional are you?

  7. Do I belong here?

Felicity Hodkinson is a leadership coach working with individuals and groups, she is a creator of ‘relational learning experiences’ and founder of Bend the River. She combines her marketing, commercial and change management experience of 20 years gained in small business and corporate FTSE100 companies with her passion for coaching individuals and organisations.

Email Felicity to explore how this coaching approach could help you develop your leadership practices. Read her recent article on 'Softening the Goal Mindset' in Global Coaching Perspectives, July 2016 (the magazine from the Association for Coaching).

#relationallearning #leadershippractices #coaching

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