• Like It Is

Delivery v Relationships

I don’t recall having any strong role models during my childhood but I do recall plenty of awkward role modelling.

My mother and grandmother were the parental figures in my life, and both had an almost no friendships. Those friendship they did have I recall as more superficial, with irregular interactions and lacking any real depth. The wider family relationships and interactions were, and remain to this day, fairly awkward with infrequent engagement. The depth of these relationships only surfacing or visible to me in times of crisis.

My own interactions throughout my childhood were also awkward and strained. The little charisma I did have, I banked for important events or interactions where I delivered bursts of extroversion to try and elicit positive engagement in the moment. Relationships weren’t even on my radar.

So as my career moved from temporary jobs which funded me through school, university and an exchange to Canada, I was shocked when I secured my first graduate job at PwC thru a quickly formed relationship with the recruiter I met briefly at a careers fair. It still remains a mystery to me how I secured a highly sort of after position through that relationship. Perhaps I had banked enough charisma and used it in the right place and right time?

But it hasn’t been smooth sailing since then. A paradox emerged in my colleague relationships. I attracted a plethora of real haters, who lived and lauded their dislike of me with real vigour. But then I also had a posse of true friends and sometimes even fans, who genuinely thought I was fantastic.

I was told repeatedly in my feedback and appraisal that I needed to work on my relationships, and once I had overcome the natural resistance I had towards that feedback, I started to formulate a plan to tackle the problem I had with building relationships. It centred around ‘delivery’. If I worked hard and got the delivery done, this would protect me from the pitfalls of poor relationship. It would be this grit and determination to achieve exceptional deliveries that would increase my number of supporters and protect me from the haters, tipping the balance in my favour. More importantly, I could also avoid tackling my inability form good relationships.

I stuck by that strategy until the day that I had a sobering discussion with my coach. She challenged head on my trusty ‘delivery’ strategy. Her advice: relationships come first, then second is finding common ground, and only after these comes delivery. A distant third! She challenged the very foundation of what I had built my success over years and year, and surmised that my ambitions and abilities to be a high performing leader and innovator would continue to be compromised unless I put relationships first. This was a difficult message to hear. It wasn’t the first time that I had been given this sort of advice over the years, but this was the juncture when I really paused to take the warning seriously.

So where does it leave me? After spending half my life avoiding relationships and with no strong role modelling on what good relationships look like from my childhood to draw on either, where do I go from here? How do go back to the start line when I am half way through my life and 20 years into my career? How can I let go of my delivery skills which I have underpinned my confidence and success, and move forward without any real foundational skills in building relationships?