Investment for Managers

Question: I am a financial manager in a large accounting firm. I’ve been with this firm for most of my career. Lately, I’ve been feeling like I’m in some kind of a rut. I see the same people every day and after a while, it is hard to think of something original to discuss. Frankly I’m bored.

Alice Waagen says: I truly applaud you realizing that relationships at work are not just set once and ignored. Just like financial investments, we need to constantly monitor what I like to think of as our “interpersonal investments” for the soundness of their performance. No savvy financial expert would keep his or her savings in a shoe box under the bed. When we ignore our interpersonal assets, we are being just as short-sighted and the impact on business success can be just as deadly.

When we invest in our interpersonal assets, we are using personal resources more precious than dollars and cents. We are investing our time and attention. The challenge is to pull away from the task and activity demands that take up so much of our focus, and to shift to a focus on our interpersonal interactions. I do not use the word “investment” lightly. Time spent getting to truly know and appreciate those around us builds trust and respect, the two qualities that cement relationships.

Here are my top 3 interpersonal investments and a method to gauge their performance.

Invest in relationships. Spend conscious time each day reaching out to others. Schedule brief coffee chats with people you admire or those you want to mentor. Openly share your ideas and thoughts. The adage “those who give also receive” will be evident. As much as you give of yourself, you in return will learn and grow.

Performance Measure – At the end of every month, review your calendar and calculate the percent of time spent in building and managing relationships. Is it adequate for the work you do and your professional growth? I personally try to target 15% of my time to cultivating interpersonal relationships.

Diversify your Portfolio. This sound financial investment strategy also applies to relationships. We tend to surround ourselves with people who think like we do. Growth and learning also needs folks who will challenge our ideas and who see the world through different lenses. Your relationship bank should have a wide variety of experiences, backgrounds, professions, and ideas.

Performance Measure – Periodically review your portfolio of relationships. Do you have a few devil’s advocates by whom you can run ideas for vetting? What is the breadth and depth of the collective brain trust?

Delete Underperforming Assets. A sound relationship is a balance of give and take. Occasionally we meet individuals who only contact us when they are in need and are unavailable when we seek help. Gently and respectfully back out of these relationships.

Performance measure – Are all of your relationships balanced, two-way interactions? Review recent interactions and make corrections as needed.

Just as reaching financial goals requires vigilance and action, interpersonal assets need to be worked to gain return. But the return, like compound interest, will grow strength over time and provide you with the resources to withstand the chaos and crises that make up our world today.