On the island of Oahu in Hawai’i is a beautiful, dormant volcanic mountain with a huge crater called Koko Head. On the South slope of the mountain is a challenging hike called the “Stairs of Doom.” The trail is made up of a series of railroad ties from the base of the cone, at almost sea level, that ascends to 885 feet at the summit. It was built to be a short military cog railway for moving munitions and people to the top of the crater to defend Hawai’i during World War II. When you get to the top of what feels like a giant ladder, no matter how good of shape you are in, you are sweating buckets from the hard work. It pays off, however, in a magnificent 360 degree collection of spectacular vistas. To the East, you can see Hawai’i Kai. It includes a bay with cerulean blue water and looking South, the equally impressive Hanauma Bay crater lies below. Inside the Koko Head crater to the North is a botanical garden with spectacular fauna. Relationships are similar; They take work, purposeful investment, and they are built one step at a time.
If you are fortunate, you have formed a handful of brilliant, life-long relationships with people in your life. My best friend from elementary school is a trusted advisor to me whenever I need a little honest kick-in-the-butt or have some good news about my life to share. While months may go by without seeing each other, when we do get together, we don’t miss a beat. It feels as though we were hanging out just yesterday. Consider your own friendships for a moment. How did those relationships form? Sometimes there is immediate chemistry, but in my experience, the real power in the relationship came after a long period of time that included many, serial experiences. Strong, resilient relationships have ups and downs and take some amount of conflict with the commensurate resolution to become strong. All relationships, good and bad, are formed, over time and through steps.
Relationships between organizations and individuals function the same way. They take time, require a series of interactions, and can be purposefully improved. As leaders, it is imperative to invest in systems that improve each experience that we have control over. The better we understand and can communicate how relationships are formed and broken, the more purposeful leaders can be in bringing…