“The most important personal ‘core competence’ by far is a rich set of relationships.”—Tom Peters
In a recent seminar for a New York-based construction management company, our team of 24 senior supervisors was surprised by a realization about the real key to their success.
Trained as engineers, the group assumed that their technical expertise was their most important “core competence.” But as we contemplated the skills that were most critical to the functioning of the company’s safety effort, and to marketing their services, and in their ability to manage huge projects by coordinating the efforts of carpenters, electricians, architects, in the midst of other workers pouring concrete and operating giant cranes in the crowded Manhattan landscape, it became clear that the quality of communication was the most important element in their work.
One of the participants experienced this as an epiphany. He exclaimed, “Oh my God. I get it: We’re not in the construction business, we are in the relationship business.”
We are all in the relationship business!
Leaders who cultivate the “core competence” of relationship building will have an increasingly powerful competitive advantage. But, skills of listening and communicating seem to be declining rapidly as we are awash in a tsunami of spam, bloated by infobesity, and addicted to electronic substitutes for face-to-face communication.
The single greatest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place successfully, according to George Bernard Shaw. The illusion is compounded by email and texting.
So, make it a priority to meet with the important people in your life one-on-one, face-to face, and practice giving them your full attention as you embrace humility. Contemporary research* confirms that humble leaders are more effective at facilitating employee engagement and encouraging a collaborative approach to learning.
Humility generates curiosity and a commitment to continuous learning—the foundation for developing the relationship building skills every leader needs now.
[CM: Guest post by Michael J. Gelb, a pioneer in the fields of creative thinking, executive coaching, and innovative leadership. He is the author of 15 books including How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci and The Art of Connection. Website: www.michaelgelb.com]
*(“Expressed Humility in Organizations: Implications for Performance, Teams, and Leadership,” Bradley Owens et.al. Organization Science 4, 10/13)