A typical coordinatosaurus response to the nature of their work is, “Hey, but I manage many senior business relations – or I am into relationship management”.
What is relationship management, especially in the context of service groups like Learning and Development? For a lot of people, their understanding of relationship management is that of a cargo cult science. It means, to drop by someone’s desk, chat a little, asking how things are going and then go underground until the next meeting. It could mean, once in a while, meeting them for tea, taking their opinion on world events or recipes or vacation spots (sarcasm alert).
I once met a Business Unit head who told me quite candidly, “Can you ask your team to stop setting meetings with me. I see no value out of them. Just do the work with the assigned coordinator and let me know when you have achieved something. Don't wait for my permission, get going on a business problem and let me know when you have solved it. At that time, I would be happy to meet.”
That was an a-ha moment for me – coming as I did from the school of thought that believes that relationship is an outcome – it is earned, not gifted for free. What he said was music to my ears.
A lot of times, relationship building ends up being all about meeting the highest paid person (usually the head of a group), taking approvals and using that stick to beat up those who do not comply (and that passes off as Learning and Development). It is a bit like wandering around with a t-shirt that says, “By order - Management”. Not many business leaders are as candid as the above person, but what he is said is true. Business leaders have a limited amount of time. So, unless your meeting adds value to them – don't meet. How would you know that? Your meeting gets moved. Or cancelled. Isnt that signal enough?
The question to ask is not why am I not getting to meet them.
Ask yourself how you can add value and those meetings will magically happen.
Instead of setting up time to ask how things are going – go with a problem and a potential solution. Go with a problem and seek a deeper understanding. Go with a question that keeps them awake at night (to use a proverbial corporate phrase) and then see if you can help resolve it. Go with the solution of a problem you have solved for that group. Seek out problems. Find out those who are passionate about solving them. And help them solve it.
And then watch how relationships get built automatically. Or as an outcome! Sure, schmooze all you like, but this is a surefire route to relationship building. Each time, I see a group that I don't have a relationship with, metaphorically speaking, I ask myself what work did I do for them? What problem did I solve for them? And mostly, I see that we have delivered ordinary day to day work or that we have not solved any business problem for them.
This is happening in other areas as well, including sales, where traditionally relationship building was all about lunches and networking and knowing people. While that is useful, the one who wins is the one who has solved or is solving your burning problem.