Working with others means working on yourself first.

In my previous posts, I have written about motivation, assertiveness and accountability. Gallup’s study showed that people wanted to see these three attributes in management.

The fourth attribute is “relationships”. This ubiquitous term has no meaning unless you confine the definition. In this article, the term relationship is framed as the ability for a leader to build positive and engaging work environments.

I make the personal caveat that I believe there are environments that are so entrenched in the quagmire of their present culture that even the most skilled leader will be unsuccessful in moving the needle in any significant way without making drastic changes. This, of course, will create a whole other set of challenges.

I am not writing about relationships in the extreme, but ones that we encounter in our day-to-day work. I readily admit that every work environment has its own quirks and foibles. Normal is not a word I would use in describing how people work together.

I have always found work relationships to be amorphous, hard to gauge and harder to understand. This may be due to my eighteen years of educational conditioning or it may be my natural predilection to prioritize goals and tasks first and everything else second. In plain speech, I like getting stuff done more than I like talking about getting stuff done. For most of my life getting stuff done and being good at it is where I placed value and worth.

I thought that sitting around in a meeting was a waste of time. I knew what needed to be done and I knew how to do it. So please, Mr. Fancy Pants, just get out of my way and let me do my job. This was my prevailing attitude when I first entered the workforce. I find that this attitude is still alive and well with many people I encounter.

It wasn’t until I had the chance to meet a couple of people from the General Command College at Fort Leavenworth that I was introduced to the work of Will Schutz and FIRO: A Three Dimensional Theory of Interpersonal Behavior. I found it fascinating that you could take a scientific approach to relationships and could gain a deep understanding of how relationships work, how they are created, maintained and why they fail.

Our mutual interdependence is the pivotal force in today’s workplace and that is why these ideas are so vital.

  1. Self-concept drives feelings
  2. Feelings drive behavior, and
  3. Behavior drives results

Schutz’s book “The Human Element” is a great place to start to further your understanding of these ideas.

Relationships in the workforce are about:

  1. Knowing and managing our own self-esteem
  2. Appreciating and respecting others
  3. Learning to flex or adapt our style to honor ourselves and to accommodate others.


(Except from Firo a brief summary) 



Your coworkers want an environment where they feel significant, where their competence is appreciated and they are liked. As a leader, these three simple things will drives results. That is why the army uses this approach that I think of as the science behind relationships. The beauty of the approach is that it is effective and replicable.

As a leader you also need to be aware of the forces that can undermine your relationship work. You need to be aware that to some degree people do not want to be ignored, humiliated or rejected.

If given the choice people like to be included, have some level of control over the work they perform and enjoy openness with colleagues.

It’s that simple, and that simplicity will take a lifetime to master.

You as a leader face a choice. You can continue to read about relationships in the workplace – and there are many engaging and entertaining choices out there – or you can focus your attention on these core elements and starting working with your colleagues in a new and creative way.