Recently I coached Jack, a leader who wanted to increase his team’s engagement to improve performance. He also wanted more buy-in for his initiatives in his business relationships. Jack was very bright and enjoyed meeting new people. He was approachable, easy to talk to, and had a great sense of humor. For some reason, however, he felt people simply weren’t giving him their best efforts. They didn’t show interest in working with him to go beyond the basics of what he asked for. His organization was struggling as a result.

As a coach, I found myself feeling sorry for Jack.  He truly seemed unaware of the reasons people weren’t responding to his efforts.

I noticed during our time together that Jack seemed uninterested in his colleagues or team’s needs. As it turned out, this was a trend in Jack’s life. Jack reached out only when he needed something, or to build relationships on his terms. One of his colleagues, “Annette” politely informed Jack that after she had listened to him frequently and provided him with valuable support more than once, she had reached out to him when she needed help, and he did not reciprocate.

To truly build connections and relationships, we need to practice reciprocity. It may be worth a fresh look at those who show up for you - and those who don’t. Do you notice those who are sincerely happy for you or listen to you when you need to talk? Are you truly grateful for their time and energy investment in you - and do you return in kind? Are there people who you make efforts to help or connect with, but it seems like a one-way street? One-way relationships are exhausting and depleting, in business and in life. As you reflect on your priorities and behavior, it may be time to accept that you need to release some people and situations from your life or show more care for people who have been there for you.   

Is your reciprocity balanced? Who are you giving to, and who is giving to you?  It can be uncomfortable to see relationships in this light, but your leadership depends on your ability to meet the needs of those around you as well as your own.     

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