Who are your friends?

“Who are your friends?” is the first question Dave Dishman (author of “GO”) asks when he visits team leaders. I wondered why he did not start with a more “strategic” conversation, so I asked for an explanation. His answer? Dave has seen the relationships of a leader determine his or her well-being and longevity in a role.

The longest longitudinal study of men known as the Grant Study came to a similar conclusion. For over 75 years, Harvard University has tracked and studied the lives of 724 men from different walks of life to discover what keeps them healthy and happy throughout life.

They studied factors like career success, financial wealth, mental and physical health, a good marriage, supportive friendships, closeness to one’s children, the ability to enjoy work, love, and play.

Robert Waldinger, the fourth and current director of the study, shares what he has learned in his 2015 TED talk. “What are the lessons that come from the tens of thousands of pages of information that we’ve generated on these lives? Well, the lessons aren’t about wealth or fame or working harder and harder.

The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this:

“Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”

Waldinger concludes his talk with a challenge, “So what about you? Let’s say you’re 25, or you’re 40, or you’re 60. What might leaning in to relationships even look like? Well, the possibilities are practically endless. It might be something as simple as replacing screen time with people time or livening up a stale relationship by doing something new together, long walks or date nights, or reaching out to that family member who you haven’t spoken to in years, because those all-too-common family feuds take a terrible toll on the people who hold the grudges….

The good life is built with good relationships.”

Relationship is the arena in which our character and emotional well-being show up. Good questions to ask: Am I growing in the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness and self-control? Am I growing in grace?  Am I becoming more aware of how much God loves me?  Am I able to extend that to others? How do others experience me — that I am “for them” or that I am judgmental?  Am I growing in truth? In compassion? In empathy? Am I learning to yield control? Do I have courage, humility and vulnerability to ask forgiveness when I am wrong?

Research makes this clear. As a leader, you must invest in relationships for your own health and for the progress of the mission.

What is one key relationship in your family or team you want to strengthen or restore?  What step can you take today to start that process?


***Learn more… The Relationships of a Leader session on the Leadership Framework page helps you build healthy, authentic, loving relationships through knowing, listening, responding, and feedback. Check it out!

Write me at steve.morgan @ cru.org if you have any questions or leave a comment!

  • Quotes from Ted Talk by Robert Waldinger
  • Photo credit: omar-lopez-355586-unsplash
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