As a leader, how and with whom you spend your time determines your impact. Yet many of us fail to make purposeful choices when it comes to managing how we allocate our time investments. This is a source of frustration, diminished power, and relationship damage for too many executives. It does not have to be this way.
As humans, we are uncertainty-averse. Our brains crave the known, recognize patterns, build habits, and turn complex behaviors into something we can do on autopilot. An environment of certainty increases motivation, focus, agility, cooperative behavior, self-control, sense of purpose and meaning, and overall well-being. Yet, as a CEO, you know that this is not the environment you face. Instead, you and your teams are perpetually confronted with a frontier of uncertainty. Faced with this reality, how can you be effective? It starts with relationships—the kind of relationships in which we learn, adapt, and change. The kind that allows for risk-taking, full disclosure, and failure — without which we are unlikely to anticipate and adjust to the uncertainties surrounding us. I call these Transformational Relationships.
Not all relationships are transformational, nor do they need to be. I may like the man who owns the dry cleaning service that I visit regularly, but neither he nor I require much from the relationship other than an agreement that he will take good care of my shirts and slacks and an agreement on my part to pay for the service… in this case, upfront. This is a transactional relationship, and it works just fine for its purpose.
However, dealing effectively with the risks and problems of running a corporation, a business unit, or a government agency takes a deeper reliance on people. A transactional relationship in this context can only provide what is already expected of it — rarely and only by chance can it deal with the uncertainty and the vulnerability we are exposed to in a big job.
Transformational relationships are characterized by the level of generosity and vulnerability that they allow. In transformational relationships, there is trust, openness, curiosity, and a willingness