Relationships beyond the Definition: My Awakening

 

Dictionary.com describes “relationship” as “a connection, association, or involvement” I must admit that definition has been my perspective for years, however it was in the context of completing a task versus building a relationship.

 

“Tom, you always have an agenda.”

The comment caught my attention, and though I could tell it wasn’t meant entirely as a compliment, I found myself thinking, “Isn’t that a good thing? I want to get something done!”

Comments like this forced me to reconsider my approach to relationships. Let me ask you: What do you do in a meeting, or any work environment, when someone has an agenda? How does it impact your participation? Your creativity? Your ownership? Based on my experience, it reduces all of the above.

Dictionary.com describes “relationship” as “a connection, association, or involvement” I must admit that definition has been my perspective for years, however it was in the context of completing a task versus building a relationship.

For most of my career a “relationship” was a point in time. I was connected, associated or involved with someone as a means to getting something accomplished. Sure I was friendly and engaging, but in a protective way. I would keep my distance, in case I had to make a “tough call.”

Just as it sounds, relationships for me were transactional, based in the task or objective at hand rather than care for the people involved. … I was once told in a crowded room that I did not care about people.

Just as it sounds, relationships for me were transactional, based in the task or objective at hand rather than care for the people involved. This approach sometimes had its difficulties – I was once told in a crowded room that I did not care about people; another time someone offered the gentler comment that I had “a lot of energy.” But since I continued to be rewarded for getting results versus developing relationships, I felt the “initial blow” of these comments, but quickly recovered just in time to “get things done.” I was completely unaware that my “hero” tendencies were short lived and unsustainable on many levels.

Today I have a different perspective. Today, the words connection, association, and involvement just “set the table.” I am not being critical of Dictionary.com. I am saying I have found another definition that is truer for me, a definition that goes beyond my transactional approach, and even beyond the common definition of relationship. Today when I think of a relationship I think of love; unconditional giving; living; truly seeing the other person and their perspective; being present with them; appreciating their differences and their unique contribution; being vulnerable; promoting what is sustainable; having no hidden agendas.

This list is nothing new to many of you. As I first created it, I thought the same thing and I was eager to get back to work; then came the awakening.

Recently I have started to lead our company with more of an interest in relationships, and suddenly things started to happen that were just too obvious to ignore:

  • We created a committee to explore why our Conscious Company training was not having the impact intended. We learned it was not so much the lack of structure as it was the lack of the desired behaviors being modeled! (Guess who is at the top of that organization chart!)
  • I was being “tenderized” by witnessing the impact of vulnerability by participants in our Conscious Company training.
  • I started pursuing my spirituality and was amazed by the humility and vulnerability of Christ; we all know his impact.
  • Jay Tuthill, the owner of our company, gave me a video to watch about a Captain in the Navy who gave up control to achieve wonderful results.
  • As I was more open and vulnerable I realized people gave me grace. They did not question how the heck I got this job!

In my current role as CEO, I really am very limited in getting stuff done. The organization structure of Tuthill is decentralized. Thus, most of the highly capable folks who accomplish our work are located close to traction, away from the corporate office where I hang out. This role initially was very challenging; I felt I had to be connected, associated, and involved with our lines of business or stuff would not get done. Guess what? As I engaged in real relationships with our leaders, I found they are more than capable.

I now see my role as someone who develops relationships both inside and outside of Tuthill. These relationships are directly linked to our Vision, Mission, Values, and Brand statement which states we want to “cultivate relationships that last for life.”

We want relationships where:

  • we talk about stuff beyond the numbers;
  • we talk about how someone is truly doing in the context of our values and our journey;
  • we share our learnings, both from failures and successes;
  • we share our fears and share our wisdom;
  • we share life.

As you may have guessed, this is a challenge for me. AND it is scary! Yet every time, I am vulnerable, authentic, and present I get confirmation that I am on the right path. Recently, from a respected colleague, I received such a gift: “keep speaking to your learning and your new awareness; keep being vulnerable and authentic. Your modeling makes it easier for the rest of us!” It I initially wanted to defect the acknowledgement, however, I let it “sink in” and quite frankly, it felt great! Maybe this old dog could learn some new tricks.

This version of relationship will bring to reality the holistic and heartfelt Vision we created. When that happens, I know I will have a multitude of true relationships.