Episode 193 – The Triad of a Relationship, Build Trust and Have Fun

Steve Shallenberger: Welcome to our podcast, listeners, wherever you might be in the world today! This is Steve Shallenberger, your host with Becoming Your Best Global Leadership, and we have a powerful subject that we’re going to talk about today. There’s no doubt that each one of you listening, has a significant influence on those around you, on your team, and organization, your families. And today, we’re going to talk about a subject that helps us really build strong, professional and personal relationships that thrive. And also, it helps us bring out the very best in the people that we work with.

Steve Shallenberger: Now, as I introduce this today, just imagine, for yourself, sitting down in a room with a new employee, and you’ve decided to hire this person. One of the very best ways to do this is to introduce something that we call, “The Triad of a Relationship.” Now, one of the best ways to think about the triad of a relationship is to think about a milk stool. A milk stool has three legs, and what happens if you knock one of those legs out? Well, of course, the stool is going to fall over. And so, each one of these three legs, are vital and essential. You can’t do without all three of them together, it’s how these come together.

Steve Shallenberger: So, this is a basic, fundamental agreement, with every employee that you work with. And it goes two ways: when we sit down and we imagine sitting down and orienting this new employee, this new associate, well, what we can literally do is just say, “Listen, before we get going, I’d like to share with you a commitment we make to each other. There’s three things, it’s called, The Triad of the Relationship. Essentially, what this is, here they are.”

Steve Shallenberger: Let’s just imagine we’re now conducting that interview. Number one is that you commit to being trustworthy. In other words, this is honesty and integrity, in big things and small things, and that we have character to live the principles that guide your life, that are correct principles. And if you blow it, you apologize, and work to fix it, and move on. This means that if you say you’re going to do something, you do it. And then, it also means we make a commitment to being loyal to the absent. And that is that we agree that, first of all, if we have a problem, we’re going to take it to the person we have the problem with. We’re not going to go talk about this with other people, it just undermines relationships. And, as a matter of fact, if we’re in the absence of this person, that we commit that we will never say anything negative about another person, that we will speak positively of that person. We’ll actually go out of our way to find something good to say about them.

Steve Shallenberger: Well, all of these things build trust, right? And so, I would ask that person, “Do you have any problem with this one? Can you commit to this?” “Oh, yeah, I can commit to doing this.” The minute somebody commits to doing this, it’s a game-changer because it builds a stronger foundation for relationships. It brings higher trust within the organization and with each other. And so, it’s extremely powerful.

Steve Shallenberger: And then, I would look at them and say, “Okay, the second one is that we have a commitment to be the best at what we do.” And so, this is at the very heart and soul of Becoming Your Best. It is a magnificent attitude and journey towards that direction of becoming our best. It’s the mindset, it’s how we look at our job and whatever your job is, whether it’s a parent or a coach or a CEO or a warehouse person or a sales rep, it’s a commitment to yourself to be among the best anywhere, at what you do.

Steve Shallenberger: And so, this is very powerful. And so, you just say, “Okay, I’m going to do whatever it takes, in terms of figuring out how to build these skills, in my life.” But that’s the commitment – it’s a commitment to excellence! So, I would look at that person, and say, “Do you have any problem with this?” “Oh, no! No, I commit to that!” Okay. Well, that’s one of the things that we want in our organization and I likewise commit to it because, you see, we all are going to make this commitment.

Steve Shallenberger: And third, and last of all – for some people, this one is the most difficult – and it is to be fun to work together with. It’s easy to work together with someone when things are going well. What we’re talking about is not only when things are going well, but when the pressure, the heat, is turned up and things aren’t going well. Mistakes are made, and perfection isn’t obtained; revenues or profits start going down. This is when we are especially committed to being fun to work with. We commit not to yell at one another, that just doesn’t help at all, but more importantly, we are committed to working together, to solve the problems together, that we’re far more effective working together and solving a problem than we are at each other’s throats. Life is simply too short to be upset at one another.

Steve Shallenberger: And so, we find ways to make things go great, to have fun to work with one another. We have an office manager in one of the companies in Northern California, they’re an absolute market leader, they’re amazing and this is one of the parts of their core values, is we have fun. Things happen all the time, but they still make it fun. I just love working with them, they’re so good! And then, I would look at this person that I’m sitting down with, and say, “Do you have any problem with this one?” And they say, “No”. They kind of laugh and say, “I can do that one, that’s what I want to do!” And I say, “I commit to do that as well.”

Steve Shallenberger: And then, from there, now you have a foundation as you work together, that is profound and if there’s ever a violation, in that you let them know that it’s a big deal, it’s not a small deal, these are three fundamental very simple things, but they’re fundamental to successful relationships and working together.

Steve Shallenberger: Okay, so what I’d like to do in this podcast today, is just go over three case studies, one with each one. But that’s how it is, it’s that simple, okay? Do you just sit down? And here are the three things and are we good to go with that? And if they are, great! If not, my recommendation is, do not hire them, it’s not worth it.

Steve Shallenberger: Alright, well, let’s just go over case study number 1 – you commit to being trustworthy. Here’s the first one, I’ll tell you about the story – Bill, an employee, was concerned that – he’s the leader – that one of his employees on his team, Mike, wasn’t pulling his fair share. And he seemed to come in late, going home early, and Mike had spurts of greatness, but Bill felt like his punctuality was hurting the team.

Steve Shallenberger: So, what can Bill do to be loyal to the absent? In other words, this commitment to being trustworthy. Well, one is he can be sure there is a relationship agreement in place to spell out expectations. As, if you’re an experienced listener to the Becoming Your Best podcast, you know that the Relationship Agreement is actually a formal agreement, that’s typed out, that has four parts to it and it has to do with your work relationship, primarily. It could be also personal, it could be children and the job that they’re going to do around the house or they want to take a trip to Alaska, or do a humanitarian project in Central or South America, or Africa. Well, the Relationship Agreement can spell all of that out.

Steve Shallenberger: And here are the four parts: What’s the vision – what are we both trying to achieve here; what are the reward systems the investment to cost, how does this work, how are people paid, etc. Number three what are the guidelines, focus and no-no’s for our relationship, this work or whatever you’re working on, and last of all, accountability. So, if there is a Relationship Agreement set up, in this case, with Bill and Mike, there could be an expectation for “Here’s what time we start and here’s what time we end.” So, if you have a Relationship Agreement in there, that’s significant.

Steve Shallenberger: Another is, be committed to bringing out the best in Mike, if you’re Bill, by engaging Mike in the vision and the contribution that he’s making on the team. Talk with Mike personally and privately about the expectations and getting his thoughts on things. So, that’s as significant. The results of this approach, which is Bill versus Bill sharing his frustration with others, is Mike is the only one that can solve this problem of behavior, right? So it doesn’t help for Bill to be talking around with others about it. Just take it to Mike and let’s go to work on it. He’s got a framework here. Handling this privately is an opportunity to not only build trust, but to build Mike.

Steve Shallenberger: Another part of this case study is, if you say you’re going to do something, deliver. And if you cannot, communicate this, that you have a problem, and give the people an update and what to expect and then deliver on the revised plan. All of these things help build trust.

Steve Shallenberger: Okay, that’s one case study, as we think about these three parts to the Triad of the Relationship, which is, commitment to being trustworthy, doing what you say, being loyal to the absent. Number two is you commit to be the best at what you do. You look around and you say, “Okay, here’s the job, and I’m going to be among the very best anywhere.” Here’s the case study on this one:

Steve Shallenberger: We have a client that has a division manager, of a major division I might add, that had previously been an estimator for another division of the same company. He had worked hard to become an outstanding and consistent producer as an estimator, a sales generator for the company. And he was part of the Executive Operations Committee of this company, of his group. Well, he really also had a desire to work in management and to make a greater contribution in the organization, as he could. So, he expressed that to the leaders of the company, and he continued to be excellent in the position that he had, being among the best.

Steve Shallenberger: Well, the opportunity came up in the company, to take over a division that was struggling in a significant way. It had big-time problems. And over a 10-year period, even though there were stumbles and issues, he learned from each one of these learning experiences, and some of the mistakes were quite costly I might add, but he took responsibility for them. He says, “Well, I’m the top guy here, in this division. I’ll take responsibility. We’re going to learn from this, and move forward, and try not to ever repeat it.” He went to seminars, he was dedicated in applying the Becoming Your Best Principles, and continues to do so, the 12 Principles, the behaviors, habits, and tools of High Performance, right?

Steve Shallenberger: He taught others within his division these principles, he worked hard to bring out the best in his associate to set the vision, he said, “Here are our core values, here’s our annual plan, here’s our quarterly meetings, and to keep the boat on track.” Very powerful! And the result is this division has grown 600% over a 10-year period and has become one of the top divisions in this company, with revenues in the solid eight-figures. He’d be the first to say he’s grateful for the success but he still has much to accomplish. And this is the mindset of someone that is trying to be the best at what you do. You keep working at it. You know, we’re never done with it, and it’s a delight, actually, to work with this individual. Okay? That’s the second one, that’s the impact when we keep working on these things.

Steve Shallenberger: And last of all, the third case study that I have today is, we have a client that shared this experience: One of the company’s key employees, Jim, we’ll say, sent out an email to many clients, that ended up having errors in it. This was upsetting and embarrassing to his line manager. And the line manager, Mary, wrote a stinging rebuke to the individual, pointing out the problem and asked that individual to simply do what she had asked him to do. No errors! “Just send out what I gave you!” And now we have something that went out to thousands of people. That’s what the email said.

Steve Shallenberger: So, first of all, how did Mary, the line manager feel when she saw the error that had already gone out? Well, of course, she was upset, she was embarrassed ticked off, to say the least, right? And how do you suppose Jim felt when he received this email from Mary? Well, he probably felt bad, probably felt upset, probably felt maybe fired up also that he had been treated so harshly, maybe. It’s not that the problem was okay, but the real question is, is this climate being fun to work with?

Steve Shallenberger: Well, see, we each have a responsibility to create that climate. So, how can you keep your commitment to be fun to work with and maintain a high standard of no errors and excellent communication? And by the way, this very same situation can show up with many different phases and circumstances. Errors, problems, failed expectations – they show up all the time, don’t they? Really, every day almost, every week we see them. So, how do we ensure a high standard of excellence, while at the same time, really creating a fun environment? And I think that’s the challenge: how do we bring a problem, an error, to another’s attention? And improve and motivate the other person, at the same time?

Steve Shallenberger: Well this is the opportunity of Highly Successful Leadership and your answer to this question can be profound and have an enormous impact on people and the culture of your organization, to be a high-performance organization and team, individuals, and a pleasant place to work, at the same time?

Steve Shallenberger: So, let’s just kind of dissect this issue here – what can you do if you’re Mary, with this kind of situation? Well, one thing that you can do, is you can see the long term. Maintain your high standards, but also motivate and bring out the best in employees or associates at the same time. Peter Drucker was fond to saying, “90% of problems are caused by systems and 10% by people.” People want to do the right thing, and if you want to correct most problems, correct the systems. And we are the ones that can impact the systems, design the systems and prove them.

Steve Shallenberger: Be thoughtful of what caused this problem in the first place. Is it an overworked person? Wrong assignment? They don’t have this capability? Is it a training issue, grammar spelling skills? Are there checks and balances on a document that’s going out? In other words, let’s look at the systems that cause this in the first place. Thinking that way as a leader, really helps it put in a different perspective when we see problems coming along. It’s not that we tolerate problems, errors, mistakes, at all. We can maintain a high standard but it’s also keeping the bigger picture of how do we solve them permanently. That’s what we want to do. Create a system that’s sustainable, of excellence. And although the immediate email going out is frustrating, it may be a symptom of a bigger problem that needs to be dealt with.

Steve Shallenberger: So, rather than blaming or criticizing, Mary could take responsibility for the errors and with a healthy degree of patience, attack the problem, and how can we eliminate this type of problem in the future? Situations like these can be frustrating and upsetting, but the best solution is often, “How do we fix this problem permanently?” And that is what Highly Successful Leaders do. You are best off when you accept the responsibility for the error and look at ways to prevent it in the future, all while bringing out the very best in the people that you work with.

Steve Shallenberger: As a matter of fact, Harvard Business School recently completed a study that demonstrated that criticism doesn’t really help solve problems. So, going after the root of the problem, together, does. Working it, solving it together. Recognizing the good in others really helps solve problems, and that is really what helps us get to a better system.

Steve Shallenberger: Now, what can you do if you’re Jim? You’re the other side of the quotient. Well, one of the things that you can do is say, “Thank you, Mary, for writing the email. I’m going to work on this. I appreciate the awareness.” You can indicate that you’re going to investigate to see what happened. And don’t take the email personally, just maintain a commitment to excellence. Be grateful to your direct manager that they would be so clear with you about the errors – what a blessing this is! And what can you do to be sure that this will never happen again? What can you do to fix the system? Is this a training problem – in other words, grammar or spelling skills that you need to build? See, this is part of being among the best is you’d get the grammar, you learn how to be perfect in spelling. Use the spellchecks but also take the time to do the due diligence. Being in a hurry? Could that be it? Is it a division of responsibility issue? I’ve got too much to do? Is this a reoccurring problem? How do we get to the root? And what are the 12 Principles that help you get to a new level of excellence?

Steve Shallenberger: So, not only for you but for the entire team or organization, come up with a plan of action of how to get to a better place. When you take that kind of an attitude, no complaining, no criticizing, going after the problem, thanking Mary for the email, isn’t that the best? That’s what helps you be true to these three things, the Triad of Relationship: being trustworthy, being committed to excellence, and number three, you being committed to being fun to be with. It’s not dependent upon somebody else. That’s kind of hard sometimes, isn’t it?

Steve Shallenberger: Well, the Triad of Relationship is ever so simple, yet enormously powerful and having a culture of solid relationships and teams. This can be one of your shared core values – to unleashing a magic genie of outstanding performance while having a great time together in the process.

Steve Shallenberger: I’ll tell you one last story, as we wrap it up today. One of our wonderful friends and a coaching client is the president of one of the major marketplaces of a National Bank. Everybody would recognize the name. His market service territory, which encompasses a major part of the United States has been among the top, including being ranked as number one in the whole country. So, he’s got high standards, high performance, this mindset of what we’re talking about. And he is true to the Triad of Relationship, I might add.

Steve Shallenberger: As we were visiting a couple of weeks ago and had a great coaching visit, fun to catch up and then go over his goals, the things he’s working on, he indicated that one of the things that he’s working on is forgiveness, being non-judgmental, not just making quick judgments, but taking time to learn somebody’s story and being compassionate. Now, isn’t that interesting, that these would be traits that a top CEO or President type would be working on while maintaining high standards?

Steve Shallenberger: Well, that is exactly what we’re talking about here with the triad of the Relationship. It is this commitment to being trustworthy and doing the things we’ve talked about, doing what you say. But it’s also being among the best at what you do, and number three, being fun to work with. It’s being considerate, it’s cutting people slack, it’s being compassionate, non-judgmental, while maintaining a high standard. And I would suggest to you, you can have both.

Steve Shallenberger: Well, it’s been a delight being together today on this podcast. You’re an extraordinary group that are listening to this. You’re committed to improving, to applying these type of things, and as a result, you are making such a difference, in your own life, and also in the lives of countless others. This is Steve Shallenberger with Becoming Your Best Global Leadership, wishing you a great day!



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