Radical relationships involve conversations that are raw, real, authentic, and transparent. And they can supercharge both your workers and your organization.
Today’s post is by Shawn Nason, author of KISS YOUR DRAGONS: Radical Relationships, Bold Heartsets & Changing The World (CLICK HERE to get your copy).
A few years back, my phone rang at 6 a.m. It was my dear friend and colleague Robin Glasco, calling to tell me she had decided to quit her job at a big health insurance company. “It’s about &!@%ing time,” I said.
And it was. Robin and I had been talking off and on for months about how I thought she should pursue a more satisfying job. I would remind her about how miserable she was, she would remind me she had two kids in college, and we would agree to disagree—but to keep the dialogue going. Finally, she decided she was ready.
Our conversations didn’t end the day she quit. She understandably had second thoughts—those tuition bills kept coming in—so we didn’t stop talking. In part because of our conversations, she leaned into her fear, mastered it and began to soar.
Now, I don’t want you to think this is just a one-way relationship. There have been plenty of times when Robin has called bull$#!& on some brilliant idea I had that ended up being not so brilliant. I’ve definitely benefited as much from our relationship as Robin has.
So what does all this have to do with leadership? One of the most important things leaders can do is create an atmosphere where authentic, deep, radical relationships can flourish.
Radical relationships happen between people and communities that may appear to have little in common except a willingness to be in relationship. The conversations that happen are raw, real, authentic, and transparent. To engage, you have to first understand that the other person or people are holding onto something that you need to learn or experience. And you have to be fully open to changing your mindsets, heartsets, values, and behaviors based on what you learn or experience.
The Status Quo Sucks
I’m just sick and tired of organizational cultures where people feel the need to put up walls to protect themselves and get ahead instead of focusing on the consumer and what’s best for the entire team. I’m tired of the fear and pettiness that comes from grown-ass adults who feel stuck in cultures that suck the life out of them. And most of all, I’m done with complacent leaders who do things the same old way because that’s the way it’s always been done.
It’s time to start thinking differently—thinking bigger—about relationships in both life and work, and we as leaders need to blaze the trail. My purpose in life is to live in radical relationships, to dive into deep personal connections with people rather than being satisfied with surface connections. This is why I don’t mind being called a corporate pastor. I’m on call twenty-four hours a day. It’s not uncommon for me to have 20-plus phone calls each day, and more often than not, they begin in the wee hours of the morning because people know that I’ll pick up the phone. That’s the pastor in me. I sleep with my phone next to me, and I’ll answer it 24/7.
This blurry line between personal and professional relationships is often startling to people who aren’t used to it, especially people who are used to a corporate environment. It’s more authenticity than some folks are willing to handle and it means blowing up the office norms that so many people have come to accept. To me, it’s just more of what needs to be blown up so that we can actually move forward and make $#!& happen in the world.
Preparing the Ground
Even if you don’t want to be available 24/7 to your team—and I’m the only one at my company who’s quite that crazy—you can still create an environment where radical relationships can flourish. Here are a few things you as a leader can do to prepare the ground. First, you have to practice what you preach. If you leave your authentic self at the office door, how can you expect anybody else to get real at work? Second, you have to make space for dialogue. As social justice protests erupted around the country last summer, we at MOFI realized we had people who were suffering. So we got together on Zoom to process how we were feeling. It was a powerful time that had nothing to do with deliverables or bottom lines or anything else we might ordinarily talk about.
Finally, you have to nudge—not push—people to lean into their fears. And you have to be patient. Like a good personal trainer, you have to figure out just how much weight each team member can lift and then encourage them to lift just a little bit more.
Melding personal and professional relationships isn’t always easy—in fact, it’s downright messy at times—and the mess is just part of the process. Embracing the mess leads to people who are more passionate, capable, and fully present in both their personal lives and their work. By stepping into authentic relationships where people feel like they can truly be themselves you can unlock a whole new level of inspiration and productivity—and maybe even keep those great employees, like Robin, who just aren’t willing to take the bull$#!& anymore.
Shawn Nason is author of KISS YOUR DRAGONS: Radical Relationships, Bold Heartsets & Changing The World and founder and CEO of MOFI and the Nason Group ecosystem. For more information, please visit https://manonfire.co/kiss-your-dragons/
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