A 5 min read on bringing 'elasticity' workplace relationships & business partnerships...
Type 'elasticity' into google and a whole load of economics pops up. What happens to demand when you move price up and down? If not a lot happens, then it is 'in-elastic' and if demand does respond to price, then it is 'elastic'.
When I think about workplace relationships and in particular small business partnerships, I like to explore about how 'elastic' it is. In a similar vein to economics, how does it respond to change? Does it have the quality where it can stretch and change in response to the other partner, to the situation, and to all other pressures, whether they come from stakeholders, investors, employees, customers. Or is it more rigid, and like a hairline crack under pressure, can rip apart into a deep crevasse?
At a senior level at work, everyone has a responsibility to improve the elasticity of their relationships, here are 3 reasons why:
It stops any potential rupture being played out by teams below. Instead of a problem taking up the energy of two people, it can then take up the energy of many. Don't waste their time and impact performance & potentially their well-being by making your fight, their fight.
You are limiting your full potential by not being able to access it fully within a rigid relationship. Something will be held back. So for both your own satisfaction and for the performance of your business, why not unleash the possible?
You don't know what pressures are coming down the line and when all else around you is changing, you want to know you can trust your relationships to be constant. Working on the 'elasticity' of your relationships, is something you can do even when everything else is uncertain.
The question is how and when do you do this?
Let's start with the when:
When you are not under pressure and there isn't a current issue. This may be at the start of a relationship. You've just become partners, started in a new business, taken on a new role. Take time to lay the groundwork for a great vibe between you.
Another great time, is when circumstances around you have shifted. Perhaps your peer has become your boss, or vice versa. Perhaps your company has been bought out, or there are new stakeholders/ investors which change the landscape of your business. Use any significant circumstantial change as an opportunity to reflect on how it impacts your relationship.
As soon as you realise something is not 'gelling'. That you're second guessing someone else, that you are feeling limited/ restricted. The likelihood is that you are both experiencing something similar, albeit in different ways. We get stuck in relationship patterns, and if you notice unhelpful ones forming, aim to break them quickly.
If you're relationship is beyond these stages, then it is likely you need more remedial support to put a relationship back together. I describe this state as fractured. My aim is to support pivotal senior partnerships to avoid this hole, by creating the 'elasticity' earlier on.
What are the signs of elasticity?
Here are some signs that I see in 'elastic' workplace relationships:
Tension is acknowledged not suppressed.
Stuff can be said without fear that it will end the relationship
Both parties know that it's not the others fault; blame is not directed outwards or sucked inwards.
Movement is allowed to go in circles, backwards, sideways not just forced forwards.
Compassion exists for oneself, the other, and the situation.
Appreciation usually exists in abundance. For each other's values, skills, contributions.
Change & lack of certainty is allowed to stretch the relationship beyond a recognisable shape transforming it to a new shape.
Think about the really amazing relationships you know, what do you see exists? What happens to the relationship when it's under pressure, how does the relationship adapt?
And how can you improve elasticity?
Focus on the space between you. What can WE do together to improve our relationship? Recognise your own contribution to the pattern and avoid blame of the other. Change yourself first before expecting the other to change. Acknowledge similarities in your values and work preferences and flush out the differences. Value each other's contribution & respectfully ask for what you need to fully show up & contribute.
Individually, focusing on these areas of development can be supportive:
Know your own stress points - identify what triggers you and what impact triggers have. Do you withdraw, become assertive or compliant. Share and discuss what resources you to stay in a difficult conversation or period of change.
Work out loud - articulate out-loud the inner conversation you are having. If the decision feels difficult, share what is drawing you to the different options.
Empathetic listening - look beneath the other's words to sense their real meaning. Avoid taking things at face value; and avoid taking the words as personally directed towards you.
Most importantly in any relationship, start this process early on, talk regularly and don't pigeon hole relationships as an extra, nice to do thing. My strong believe is that it is the quality of the relationship that enables the quality of thinking, performance & well-being.
For more information on partnership or workplace relationship coaching, please get in touch with me by email.
Why I do this...
My passion for supporting workplace relationships to flourish came out of my own leadership experiences. It was commonly spoken at work that you should have a good relationship with people, but no one ever defined what was a good relationship or how to have one. The team bonding stuff was nice in the moment, but never seemed to really help in the long run. The term 'healthy tension' was used... but it often felt like outright war, both detrimental to performance & well-being.
Relationships are important for many aspects of our lives; I believe in today's increasingly disconnected and fragmented society, that learning the skills & confidence to improve the quality of our workplace relationships contributes towards a better world. More care, more compassion, more ideas, better solutions, and a shift from individualism towards holism. Eg less about me, and more about 'us'.
All the best, Felicity