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We recently spent 3 days away together, holed up in a remote, beautiful and quiet part of the UK. It’s something that we choose to do regularly. It’s a significant investment in time, and for a small business, it would be easy to question the value (and cost) of taking time out, away from our clients and our core business.

For us, it’s an essential time to get some space to think and plan together. It’s a valuable opportunity to step off the treadmill, put our heads above the parapet, take stock, think about big stuff (what’s going on in the world and what difference we can make), and set a course for the next year and beyond.

It was also an opportunity to think about – and invest in – our relationships with each other. Although we know each other of old, and have worked a lot together over the years (in various permutations), we’re starting to work together differently. So, it’s been important for us to attend to how that feels, what we’re learning about this new team and ourselves and each other, and how we can use that to work together better and do great work for our clients.

It’s a deliberate choice to spend time investing in relationships. It’s not a ‘given’ that your relationships will benefit from spending time together socially or engaged in a collaborative venture. It takes focused effort to build, sustain and nurture high quality relationships. Here’s our thoughts on how to mindfully invest in relationships:

1. Shift your thinking

Change how you think about relationships. They’re tricky to get right – far trickier than business plans, tasks and actions. If you take them for granted and your approach is hope – or avoidance – it’s time for a rethink. A mindset that says “relationships are critical to get right – and deserve attention” is a precursor to investing regular time and energy in them.

2. Be strategic

Do you know which relationships are crucial to help you succeed in your role? And which are most important over the next 4 to 6 weeks? And conversely, who would be listing you in their ‘critical relationships to succeed’ list? What state is each of those relationships in? How does the relationship feel? Is it characterised by high levels of trust, shared goals and understanding? Identify those that need attention right now.

3. Proactive plans

Think about how you can best work on those relationships that need attention right now. Spending time together – while important – may not be sufficient to improve that relationship. Tuning in to how you’re feeling – and being curious about how the other person is feeling is a good starting point. Getting clarity on your shared goals, philosophies and ways of working, and simple ‘stop, start, continue’ feedback exercises can also be powerful. Approach the conversation in a planned and structured way, but seek to understand, not simply to be understood!

4. The Discipline of investing

Some of the most successful people we’ve worked with have been brilliantly disciplined at ensuring their key relationships are in continuously good health. Investing in relationships is not simply an ‘event’ which takes place on the last Monday of the month but is something they think about constantly and consistently. They’re in constant ‘scan’ mode, connecting and checking in regularly, listening and understanding expertly, and leading explicit conversations on the quality of their relationships.

So, on this Valentines Day, we’re challenging you to start investing more effectively in your relationships. Whether at work or at home, maybe it’s time you thought about the approach you’re taking, and how well it’s working for you – and the other people involved…