• October 2011

The Importance of Investing in Your Managers

By Alice Waagen, PhD
President and Founder
Workforce Learning

Everywhere I go these days, the buzz is about protecting investment assets.

Between the financial market churn, the Euro crisis, and worries over a Greek default, there is a scramble to ensure that financial goals are being met.

But what about our managerial goals?

Every good manager I know constantly assesses the performance of their work goals and objectives and makes changes if work performance falters.

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.

Here’s why:

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 methods to gauge the performance of your “interpersonal investments.”

1. Invest in Relationships. Spend time each day reaching out to others on your team. Schedule brief chats over coffee with people you admire or those you want to mentor, and 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.

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 try to target 15 percent of my time to cultivating interpersonal relationships.

2. Diversify Your Portfolio. This sound financial investment strategy also applies to relationships. We tend to surround ourselves with people who think like we do. To grow and learn, we also need to be open to 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.

Periodically review your portfolio of relationships. Do you have a few devil’s advocates with whom you can vet your ideas? What is the breadth and depth of the collective brain trust?

3. 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 who are unavailable when we seek help. Gently and respectfully back out of these relationships.

Ask yourself, “Are all of my relationships balanced, two-way interactions?” Review recent interactions and make corrections as needed.

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


About Alice Waagen

Alice Waagen, Ph.D., is president and founder of Workforce Learning LLC, a leadership development company she founded in 1997.

In the last three years alone, more than 125 leaders from 24 organizations have graduated from Waagen’s unique leadership-development workshop series.

Learn more about Waagen’s work at www.workforcelearning.com.

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