A Seesaw of Effectiveness—Balancing Tasks and Relationships

A Seesaw of Effectiveness—Balancing Tasks and Relationships

While there is a premium placed on task management in virtually all workplace settings, we cannot achieve optimal results without effective relationships across the organization. Knowing when, where, and how to shift our energies on this continuum can be a valuable component to our success.

Sample scenario #1: Mateo is the Finance Manager, and no one can crank out a spreadsheet like he can. He is the master of data, the king of analyses, and the prince of projections. His primary challenge is that he believes there is little value in conversations about anything other than the nuts and bolts of the business. Consequently, his colleagues tend to craft workarounds instead of dealing with him directly, and his output suffers accordingly.

Sample scenario #2: Imani is keenly on top of how everyone is doing and how they are feeling. At the weekly staff meeting, she leads a check-in and encourages others to share freely about what’s going on at work and in their personal lives to the extent that they’re comfortable. She misses the cues that some employees are reluctant to open up, chalking that up as “shyness.” Meanwhile, the agenda is hastily put together and seldom addressed thoroughly.

Why will this help me at work? Having the awareness and capability to make conscious changes—sometimes focusing more on task accomplishment, other times investing in effective business relationships—is a means to have more balance and better results.

Why is this so difficult at times? There are a number of challenges in this area. Our personal wiring may be such that we are on one end of this continuum or another. Stereotypically in this culture, men are supported to focus on tasks rather than relationships, and women get the opposite message from time to time. There are certain professions that attract those who resonate with one or the other style—engineering, finance, and IT professionals tend toward the task-management category, while the helping professions like nursing, education, and counseling have more of a relational focus.

Your frank self-assessment:

• Where is your comfort zone? Do you love being in “processing conversations” with others, or do you like to focus more on a concrete project?
• When and how do you consciously shift gears when you realize that your normal style is not particularly useful in a given situation?
• What do others think about your ability to utilize your strengths along with compensating for your difficulties in this area?

My tips:
• Watch how moving toward your opposite competency usually spikes some anxiety, because it takes us into unknown territory.
• Notice that “control freak” and “touchy-feely” are the negative terms associated with these styles of being primarily task-focused or relationship-oriented. Think about the strengths that come along with them as well.
• Work on developing your awareness in the moment (like many of the other concepts discussed in this book) of where you might need to make a mindful shift between focusing on tasks versus relationships.

Action for traction:
• Find a self-assessment tool like the “FYI”—a system from Lominger—and pick out your strengths and challenges around task and relationship management. Choose three things you’re good at and three you want to improve.
• Initiate a conversation with a work group you have good trust with—do they see you (and do you see them) as needing to broaden any competencies in this area? Schedule a follow-up.
• Who do you know and respect who could coach you on your weak side? Ask them if you can buy them a cup of their favorite beverage to gain their perspective.

Baked-in benefits:

• You’ll be more of a “utility player”—taskmaster when it’s needed, key connector at other times.
• Demonstrated flexibility in this area means that you can manage your stress better because you have more options.
• It’s just more fun rather than being locked into only one perspective!

Excerpt From: Flip Brown. “Balanced Effectiveness at Work. How to Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labor without Driving Yourself Nuts.”  Published by: Starr Farm Press