In life, business, and community work, enduring relationships—ones built on trust and ongoing mutual benefit—are essential. Successful leaders and individuals invest time and energy in building these relationships inside and outside their organizations and families.
Consider a personal relationship in which one spouse continually attempts to engage with the other, but to no avail, or the friend who is always the one reaching out to set up time to get together. A sense of disequilibrium starts to set in, and the relationship breaks apart. The same dynamic exists in a business relationship. If the parties cannot achieve ongoing equilibrium—the sense that each party is equally giving and receiving—a parting of the ways is the most likely outcome. This sense of disequilibrium is the primary reason why most individuals leave companies.
Working alongside others on projects to better the Kansas City community allowed me to connect with others and establish relationships characterized by a commitment that both parties equally give and take. When people roll up their sleeves in pursuit of a shared aspirational challenge, relationship barriers tend to break down.
Of course, not all relationships are enduring. Others are transactional, characterized by short-term or momentary benefits to the individuals or groups. Transactional relationships are exchanges in which “you do something for me, and I do something for you.” There is no commitment beyond the current transaction.
Transactional relationships are a factor in all our lives. We all, for example, have transactional relationships with the cashier in the grocery store. We have them on short-term project teams and in many other business relationships. Transactional relationships can last for moments or years. They are not inherently bad; they are just transitory.
A critical characteristic of an enduring relationship is equilibrium. This is when each party is committed to ongoing mutual benefit. Both parties share resources and support on an ongoing basis, beyond any specific tasks. When a task or project is completed, both parties make the effort to stay connected, informed, and in support of the other’s goals. There are no shortcuts when it comes to building these relationships.
If you aspire to a meaningful life that accomplishes great things, you need to develop a broad network of mutually beneficial relationships. Personally and professionally, I owe a great deal to the people in my network. For example, I continue to enjoy and benefit from my relationship with Roger Lockwood, my first CEO, friend, and lifelong mentor. My relationships with members of the Kemper family—while working at Fidelity—led Crosby Jr. to reach out when they needed a new leader. I’ll never know exactly what influences led to me getting the offer at TD Ameritrade later in my career, but David Kimm, a respected Fidelity colleague, was by then TD Ameritrade’s chief risk officer and a direct report to TD Ameritrade CEO Tim Hockey. My continued friendship with Rodger Riney, Scottrade’s founder and CEO, is another example.
The relationships Michelle and I built in the Kansas City community and in the other communities we lived in have enriched our lives in countless ways. For example, although we haven’t lived in Kansas City for years, those relationships continue to support my goals even in my third chapter of life.
— Excerpt from Taking Stock: 10 Life and Leadership Principles from My Seat at the Table by Peter J. de Silva