The Primacy of Relationships

Take the recently reported experience by Google in their Project Oxygen.  (Google’s Quest to Build a Better Boss) Laszlo Bock, Google’s vice president for “people operations”, described their research into the relative importance of eight key management attributes:  “In the Google context, we’d always believed that to be a manager, particularly on the engineering side, you need to be as deep or deeper a technical expert than the people who work for you,” Mr. Bock says. “It turns out that that’s absolutely the least important thing. It’s important, but pales in comparison.  Much more important is just making that connection and being accessible.”

Gallup surveyed over one million workers on what drove job satisfaction.  Their analysis yielded 12 critical questions to ask workers about their work place.  Of the 12, half of them  related strongly to factors heavily driven by relationships created and nurtured in the workplace: recognition, supervisor level of caring, encouraging development, being listened to by others, having a best friend at work, and receiving frequent and active discussion about development progress.

The Great Place to Work Institute is the “engine” behind Fortune’s annual list of the 100 Best Companies to work for.  Michael Burchell and Jennifer Robin from the Institute recently published “The Great Workplace – How to Build It, How to Keep It, and Why It Matters” , summarizing the results of the institute’s over 30 years of research into great places to work.  They define a great workplace as “one where people trust the people they work for, take pride in what they do, and enjoy the people they work with.”  One of their overarching conclusions of their research:  “The practices companies had and the money leaders spent on employees did not always lead to great workplaces;  The relationships they built in the process did.”

The implication is clear.  Of course, every business depends on its core competence and its command of its market understanding and its technologies.  Yet what will distinguish us as great places to work will be how effectively we pay attention to and nurture the key relationships between our executives, line leadership, and our extended team of employees.

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