How to Forge Resilient Relationships in the Heat of Change

breakthrough

From Breakdown to Breakthrough 

Business leaders often focus on profits and metrics, living in spreadsheets and analytics. But what drives these results is people and relationships. So often it’s the resilient relationships, those that are forged in uncertain and difficult times that make the difference.

Author Michael Papanek takes three decades of experience with clients ranging from Apple to Google and shares it in his new book, From Breakdown to Breakthrough: Forging Resilient Relationships in the Heat of Change. His framework helps leaders develop the confidence to take these relationships to the next level. I recently asked him about his work.

 

“Resilience is a social phenomenon based on relationships, not an individual leadership attribute.” -Michael Papanek

 

Build Strong Relationships

What are the elements of a strong relationship?

A strong business relationship will have a number of attributes that set that relationship apart from others.  First, it must provide value to both parties, and it is “generative,” meaning the value together is more than any one person could create on their own: so that 1 + 1 = 3.  Strong relationships also create multiple tracks of value that would be hard to replace if the relationship ended.

One example of this is from the entertainment world, where the band the Grateful Dead was famous for their long relationship with their very loyal fans (which continues today, long after the passing of their leader Jerry Garcia).  In addition to music, the band created value in other key ways for the fans, such as supporting a community of fans (the “Dead Heads”) as well as creating an ‘outside the concert’ experience, and even income for some fans (by selling items at the shows).

Finally, a strong relationship contributes to key strategies or needs of each party.  Relationships that do not create value this way may be categorized as superficial and easily ended. If you are ever not sure if the business relationship is really strong, that is the time to discuss it. Do not wait until you are surprised by a change.

 

“Strong relationships create multiple tracks of value that would be hard to replace if the relationship ended.” -Michael Papanek

 

How often do our relationships hit that sweet spot between strong, flexible and fair?

Do You Have A Leadership Lifeline?

Leadership Lifelines

It’s 10:25 a.m. on a Thursday.  Your calendar indicates that you have a meeting with your boss at 10:30 in her office to update her on an important company project.  You grab a pen, your notepad, and a printout outlining the status of each open item.

Walking into her office, you immediately realize that the meeting agenda will be different.  Sitting next to your boss is the Human Resources Director.  Your boss says, “Sit down. There’s no easy way to say this, but your position has been eliminated.”

You’re not sure whether they see you gasp for air.  The sharp breath you take is to try to slow yourself down.  You feel heat rushing up into your face like lava erupting from a volcano.  Your heartbeat feels like you are running as it begins to pound faster.

You don’t even hear the rest of the dialogue. You stare blankly as your boss exits the room, and you are left with HR and a stack of paper.

 

“Facing your fears robs them of their power.” -Mark Burnett

 

What are you going to do?

 

The Stress of Losing a Job

Losing your job rates as one of life’s biggest stressors.  That stress ratchets up dramatically if you have little or no savings.  But it’s not just about money.  For many, it’s also about identity.  Losing friends and colleagues, and feeling ostracized, are also contributing factors.

And in most cases it is a blow to self-esteem.  Often your higher-level thinking will lose out to emotions. Change is hard, especially when you don’t control it.

 

“You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this and you will find strength.” -Marcus Aurelius

 

After you lose your employment, experts quickly tell you that you need to network.  Because, they will say, the way to a new job is through your network.

  • “Who do you know?”
  • “Who is in a position to help you?”
  • “Who are the most influential people in your network?”
  • “Who will you ask to be references?”

I have been both the recipient and the originator of networking calls. If you are looking for a job, you are inevitably going to call everyone you can.

Because I have a large network, most months I receive several calls or emails from people looking for work.  I truly feel for these people. I understand the challenge.  It’s stressful. Earlier on, I tried to help everyone.  Now, though I try, I just don’t have the time or bandwidth to help most people. That’s difficult for me because I want to help every person that I possibly can in these difficult situations.

 

“It’s not stress that kills us, it’s our reaction to it.” -Hans Seyle

 

Common and Uncommon Advice

Advice you will often hear: Network. Build your connections. Meet people at industry events. Become an expert in your field.

Here’s the advice you don’t often hear: