Relationships: The Fuel of Your Company Culture

The purpose of life is not to be happy, it is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well. – Emerson

Some time ago I came across this story of 76- year old Bill Baker. If you think your family has problems, consider the mayhem created when he wed Edna Harvey. She happened to be his granddaughter’s husband’s mother. That’s where the confusion began, according to Baker’s granddaughter, Lynn.

Lynn said, “My mother-in-law is now my step-grandmother. My grandfather is now my stepfather-in-law. My mom is my sister-in-law and my brother is my nephew. But even crazier is that I’m now married to my uncle and my own children are my cousins.”

From this experience, Lynn should gain profound insight into the theory of relativity.

We’d all agree that relationships can be tricky. We bring to any workplace culture our own unique personality, quirks, beliefs, and qualities. Blending those characteristics into a cooperative environment can be a challenge.

The truth is, we live and work in the context of relationships and as leaders we are not exempt. Are you being intentional about the value of relationships and doing what you can to foster good ones? Passive participation will produce nominal results at best.

Building a strong organizational culture begins with building solid relationships – it’s that simple. But it’s also that hard. So what is a leader to do? Here are four steps to building better relationships.

Take the initiative

This is one of the fundamental characteristics of a strong leader. As such, you do not wait to take the first steps in the right direction. Take responsibility and act as if developing good relationships depends on you- because it does.

You build good relationships as a leader by being proactive. For some leaders this may be a big step out of your comfort zone but the more you do it the more at ease you will become. Show your people that relationships matter by making it personal.

Find common ground

Good relationships are essential to your company culture. Mesh all of the personalities and differences together and you have the potential for something truly unique and special—if you do it right.

So long as we allow our differences to divide us we will have problems. A strong leader will find common ground, find points of common interests and goals, and build off of it. Our objective is not to create molds of ourselves – to mold everyone into our way of thinking, believing, and way of doing things. It’s to embrace our differences, build off of our uniqueness, and elevate everyone because of it.Find common ground and build from there.

Welcome everyone

Building relationships in your company environment happens as everyone is welcomed in. The responsibility rests with you as the leader to create an atmosphere in which everyone is made to feel welcome and no one is shut out. To foster anything less is to play favorites and create division.

When diversity of relationships are seen through the lens of value that each person in your organization possesses then everyone feels like they belong. Your life as a leader is much richer and rewarding when you experience the full range and scope of a diversity of relationships. Do yourself a favor- broaden your circle and welcome everyone.

Look outside yourself

The final thought is this – the strength of your relationships and the power of the company culture you build is realized not when you attain it but in how you use it. It’s not so much about having a “look at us” mentality, but in a “how can we serve you?” expression of it.

As a leader it’s not about you. If you integrate that belief and expand it system wide, then you have the potential to do great things. Why not tap into the uniqueness of your people, harness the power of your relationships, and turn it into a force for good? Can you imagine the impact you can make? When you do this then you will begin to discover a whole new dimension of the power of relationships. Are you ready?

Doug Dickerson is an internationally recognized leadership speaker, columnist, and author. A Lowcountry resident, Doug is available to speak for your civic, business, or church group. To learn more visit

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