In Lab - Archive

Leadership in relationships

Franco Marzo Coaching& business development

Power and empowerment

Power is something you can “have” or "exercise" and represents what is possible, never a certainty. Even the most powerful tyrants, who enjoyed limitless power, have fallen miserably. I believe that in Italian culture, power is considered as an endowment that one may or may not possess. Perhaps that is why many people have extreme feelings about it, they hate it when others have it, love it when they crave it or side with those who have it. Anglo-Saxon cultures tend to be  slightly more detached. For Americans and British, for example, power can be likened to the verb "I can", a "possibility" for everyone: “people have the power”, are the words of a famous song by Patti Smith. In managerial language we speak of "empowerment" to express the idea that power can be recognized within oneself and at the same time learn to use and exercise it. That is precisely what I want to talk about.


Cause and effect in relationships

The first condition to be a leader is to think that you can condition, steer, influence, guide and lead people by playing an active role in a relationship: much “can be done”. Every small "cause" can have a great "effect": surprise, alter a balance, change directions, prompt reactions, feedback. On youtube you can view thousands of videos of complete strangers awarded with millions of clicks and likes. No wonder they are called "influencers" and have millions of followers: they post “causes” on the web to prompt an “effect”, they exercise power in creating relationships. But you can also perform some experiments. How many strangers have greeted you last week? Very few or none? This may still happen at times when walking along certain country roads or in some country villages. And yet, if you use a cause, a greeting, between you and some stranger you will soon see how many effects this will have. Try greeting your neighbours, fellow train commuters, other customers in your favourite bar or those you meet while jogging. You will be surprised at how many strangers will greet you in return. Try to "put on" a few smiles and you will see how many people will smile back at you. A "relationship" works like this: each time you do something, you will elicit a reaction. You do have a measure of power, you just need to learn how to use it correctly. If, tomorrow morning, at 8:00 a.m., you take the time to walk through your company’s premises to greet all your employees, you may see some changes after a few weeks, for example more punctuality. If you call a meeting at 8:30 a.m. and leave out all those who arrive late, there is a good chance that at the following meeting latecomers will be fewer. Every cause has an effect. Some time ago, during a conference, I had lunch with Ivan Capelli, a former Formula 1 driver and TV commentator. I took the opportunity to ask his opinion on the reasons behind Ferrari's success in the early 2000s. He gave me a rather amusing anecdote. On Schumacher's first day in Maranello, arrangements were made to meet at 9.00 a.m. with the team to test the new car. Schumacher showed up at 9:00 a.m. sharp, with his suit, gloves and helmet on. He was told that the car would have been ready in 10-15 minutes. He said goodbye to everyone and left, postponing the test until 9:00 the following day. The next day he showed up at 9:00 a.m. on the dot with his suit, gloves and helmet on. This time the car was ready and waiting for him. Between 2000 and 2004 he won 5 consecutive world championships. According to Ivan Capelli, besides being a great driver, Schumacher was also a great team leader.


“I’m OK – you’re OK”

In Transactional Analysis, this expression represents the relationship between two "adults" with equal potential. If one of them were a "child" there would be an inequality of power. In an adult-adult relationship each person "feels OK", aware of his possibilities and able to face reality. They may or may not succeed, but they know how to play their cards. Feeling OK means to take responsibility for one's actions, to be aware of the cause-and-effect reactions that are created.

However, great leaders need more than being aware of their own power, they also need to be aware of the power of others: "You too are OK, an adult, and for this reason I will not treat you as a child". This may prove challenging indeed, how often we hear phrases like "you can’t get blood from a stone" or a “turnip” and so on. All nonsense; judgment destroys potential, trust promotes them. In a "relationship" you transmit what you feel, the mere thought that your employee is not adequate will produce a negative effect on his self-esteem. Have you ever been treated as incompetent? How did you feel? Your power or Energy waned, you felt awkward, even afraid, and those who are afraid of making mistakes often make them. Whenever you think of your collaborators as inadequate or incompetent they will likely reduce their determination, commitment, effectiveness and focus on the task or role entrusted to them. In a relationship, if you are afraid that something will happen, it will! "Your “prophecy”, even if undisclosed, will come true".


The importance of relationships

Nothing is more important than relationships to a leader, the “crossroad” of all possibilities and opportunities: credibility, trust, the possibility of delegating and authority. Money is never enough, power runs out and machines break down, relationships are the best asset. No organization works without healthy and creative relationships. But how do these relationships come to life, how do they grow, how do they change? A hundred books would not be enough to talk about relationship, but you can take note of the following four things.

Human resources

1.         are built

2.         are nourished

3.         evolve over time

4.         come to an end


Building relationships

Relationships are built in the first 5 minutes of contact (some say in the first few seconds). What we perceive in that brief period of time will form a series of impressions, evaluations and judgements that will prove difficult to modify later. For this reason many believe that “you never get a second chance to make a first impression". That is how the human mind works, once it has decided whether the glass is half full or half empty, it almost never changes that initial idea.

For a successful relationship you must be willing to share 4 things about yourself:

•          identity: introduce yourself and your origins;

•           projects: clearly state what you want, what are the goals of this relationship;

•          feelings: state your beliefs;

•           emotions: be ready to share your hobbies, passions,  frailties and weaknesses;

Forming a good relationship will not always depend on verbal communication, sometimes a "beer" helps.


Nourishing a relationship

A relationship must be regularly nourished. If you leave a plant unattended for 15 days in summer, it will wither away. Human relations must be "nourished" through feedback. The absence of feedback or indifference will kill a relationship in no time. The main feedback are four:

•          positive about doing: “I think you did a great job, I especially enjoyed that passage in which you quoted….”

•          negative about doing: “your report is insufficient, you need to outline your goals and proposals more clearly”

•          positive on being: “you’re really good, capable”

•          negative on being: “we can’t go on like this”

Giving the right mix of periodic feedback is essential. You can't just scream all the time just as you cannot pat everyone’s back all the time. Perfect timing, the right dose and ingredient, will go a long way in establishing a proactive relationships.


Relationships evolve

Do not forget that each type of relationship has its own life cycle, is starts, then grows, changes its identity and in the end, it dies. When a relationship evolves it means that one of the two interlocutors changes identity. In life, children become adolescents, then adults and then elderly. Work relationships evolve through career paths, job rotation, changes in position, task or company. You need to detect these changes as they take place before things get out of hand, keep a channel of communication open, at each stage you need to verify and adapt the "diet" or feedback of your relationship.


Relationships are not forever

All relationships end sooner or later, the cycle is linked to life, and although everyone knows it, when it happens we suffer, at times we feel desperate, angry and sad. Even when a working relationship ends, it is necessary to elaborate a "mourning period" and do so in the proper manner. I have seen leaders and collaborators slam the door and sue each other, while others meet after many years with different roles. If properly "managed", the end of a relationship can produce results in other forms: a leader can become a customer or advisor while a collaborator, a local administrator perhaps even the mayor.

Meaningful relationships are a precious heritage that could last indefinitely.


The rules

Leadership in relationship

01       Power is not a gift, it’s a possibility. Results are never certain, but you always have a chance.

02       As long as you have a chance you are OK, so you are always OK!

03       You exercise power when you enter a "cause" into your relationship. Giving up is a deadly sin (sloth) and Dante throws you in Hell.

04       Every cause has an effect. If you don't change the causes you won't change the effects either. Einstein wrote "If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got".

05       True leaders consider their employees to be OK. Sow confidence, you will yield confidence.

06       Relationships are precious assets, a leader’s only true resource.

07       Relationships are built in the first 5 minutes. Pay close attention to who you are dealing with, be prepared, be informed, try to understand who they are, what they want, what they feel and what excites them.

08       A relationship must be nourished like and better than a plant: watered, fertilized, pruned, transplanted etc.

09       All relationships evolve and change their nature. Pay attention to these changes and be ready to adapt.


10       Good relationships, even when they end, are like good memories, inexhaustible sources of energy.



Franco Marzo

smart management Coaching e business development

(reproduction is forbidden)



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