As we came to a wrap up of a session of a women's Peer Mentoring group, the women expressed a delight in their work with business clients. How they loved the relationships they had with them. Went out of their way to develop and enrich them. Not so much excitement about the staff they oversaw. Each found staff more needing of their time and energy with not (necessarily) a sense of mutuality. I was stuck at how very differently clients and staff were thought of. And treated. Clients in a welcoming way. Staff with more of a sense of obligation.
"Leading is a relationship business too." I said. There was a huge pause from the group. Finally one of the gals said, "I never thought of it that way." I went on to add that fostering and maintaining good relationships with staff allow the work of your business to get done. Staff needs are quite similar to client needs. To be heard and understood, have regular conversations, be part of solution finding and celebrating success. As with clients none of this is at odds with business imperatives. This came as a bit of a surprise! Each of these women had work to do and staff had work to do. Getting along and just doing the work was what these women wanted from the people they oversaw. Creating a mutual relationship environment like they had with their clients hadn't crossed their minds.
It was an interesting moment. One where you realized you're thinking about those you work with are is at odds with what you are hoping to achieve. The take away was looking at their staff through the lens of relationship and see where that might shift how each shows up. I was reminded that we don't do a good job of teaching and modelling what true leadership is. It's not a 'do to' someone or a team or a business. It's a 'do with'. That only happens in relationship.