The most profound relationships form and sustain when someone connects deeply and then continues to nurture those connections. At IMD in this last week 300 international leaders gather for a women’s leadership conference, hundreds of executives from virtually every country participate in executive education modules – Advanced Strategic Management ASM, High Performance Leadership HPL and Program for Executive Development PED – for several of which I led sessions.
In this same time frame, my school friend of nearly 50 years who has lived, worked and raised her multi-racial, multi-national children, multi-lingual around the world visits our home in Lutry. We share an evening with two friends we’ve known for over 25 years, now respectively the US Ambassador to the UN Geneva and the UN Indpendent Expert on Minority Issues at the residence of one outside Geneva. While the latter relationships first were formed around professional connections, they deepened into personal friendships: conversely, the former that started personal has opened doors to professional opportunities.
I see the parallels of what I experience in my professional and personal life and how interconnected they can be if and when people initially connect on a deep level or sustain a relationship that grows in depth over time. For those who just met or possibly reconnected at the various IMD gatherings, they can choose to maintain the powerful bonds they’ve created during the programs with their fellow participants and with those who led sessions. I bear the same responsibility if I want to stay connected to any of the extraordinary people I’ve just met and with whom I sense I’ve begun to develop a budding relationship.
Just as with these professional relationships, friendships of a quarter to a half a century don’t just spontaneously sustain even if the initial point of connection was – as it usually is – a strong spontaneous recognition, almost visceral, of someone who has a kindred spirit. To keep that initial spark alive, you must flame it with efforts to stay connected. In the case of my high school friend, we might only actually physically cross paths once a decade but in between we keep each other informed of where we are, what we’re doing and how we’re feeling.
These and the other relationships I’m referring to must have a two-way street dimension: someone extends the invitation for connection and someone else accepts it; sometimes alternating the initiating and receiving roles. As long as both keep a level of emotional connection the relationship can deepen over time and it’s that much more rewarding when you actually catch up in real-time whether in person or on Skype/other social network format.
As I continue developing my body of work about engaging internal and external stakeholders all of this has relevance for what I think about and how I present it. I welcome your thoughts about creating and sustaining relationships.