Leaders Guide to Identifying & Nuturing Relationships

When a relationship has a powerful effect on something really important to you, it’s a vital relationship, and one that is central to your success and well-being. These relationships need extra attention and care.

When you look around for your most significant relationships and pull them into focus, you can start to pick out the ones that are most pivotal to what you are trying to achieve. The relationship may be with someone you like or it could be with someone you find distasteful. If it has the power to affect you in significant ways, even a relationship with an adversary could be a vital relationship.


Many vital relationships at work, like the one with your manager, are obvious. But others may be less obvious. For example, there may be someone in your peer group that acts as a bottleneck for the work you’re trying to get out the door. Or maybe there is an executive who is enthusiastic about your ideas, but you haven’t engaged him or her very much. In both cases, recognizing the person as a vital relationship will bring them to the front burner of your awareness.

At home, there may also be more and less obvious vital relationships. If you are married or in a primary relationship, it’s most likely a vital relationship that you can easily identify as such. But let’s say you are co-parenting your child with an ex-spouse. Even if you don’t get along, your relationship with your ex is still a vital one.

When I coach executives, I ask them to create a map of their vital relationships at work. If you’re going through a significant transition, are in a leadership position, are in an unstable organizational environment, or are working toward a promotion, this map can be especially rewarding.


Some of your vital relationships will be with people you like and respect. Often they are allies who will go out of their way to back you up. This is your base of support. Be sure to treat these relationships with special care and don’t take them for granted.

There will be other, more challenging relationships, where you’ll have to work harder to make and keep a connection, like the ones where the basic building blocks of respect and friendliness are missing. Regardless, if it’s a vital relationship, look for a way to engage that is as productive and positive as possible.
Sometimes it doesn’t take much. Just keeping the person on your radar and being a little more attentive in your communication may be enough. Think of it as taking the pulse of what is happening in your vital relationships. When you do this at work, it will keep you in the loop politically and more able to spot opportunities as they arise.

Other relationships will require more effort. Making a sincere attempt to understand the other person’s challenges, or connecting with the person about something that is dear to their heart can be very much appreciated. And when you speak up for what you want or need, find a way to weave it into and acknowledgment of what is important to the other person.

Finally, offering your gratitude for even small things can go a long way to ensure that your vital relationships are humming in a way that supports your success. What comes up when you think about nurturing a vital relationship with someone you don’t like?

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Barbara Bouchet

Barbara Bouchet is President of Contact Point Associates and author of "The Enlightened Edge for Leaders: Ignite the Power of You." She coaches and trains leaders and teams to expand, transform and take delight in their work and life. Connect with Barbara.


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