Web of relationships

Relationships aren’t just nice to have…

Many, perhaps all, of us working in the Surrey children’s ‘system’ have a large workload. The relentless flow of messages via email, Teams channels and other communication methods can make it hard to respond to all that is asked of us. When you are under pressure, who do you respond to the quickest and most helpfully? Highly likely your manager, and probably others who you just have to respond to given your role. But who else?

My guess is that beyond those immediate pulls on your time, you will have to make some choices. Some things may just not get done, but you are more likely to respond to people you like and trust and with whom you feel that you have a reciprocal arrangement – they would help you if you asked. And then perhaps less likely to answer emails from unfamiliar names and people you don’t feel a connection with.

This is the power of relationships. In a complex system, things are unlikely to get done simply because they are written down in a strategy somewhere, or a senior leader says that it should happen. The magic ingredient behind much work is relationships.

If the relationships between organisations and departments across the Surrey children’s ‘system’ are not as strong as they could be, then quite possibly less things will get done (or they might just take a little longer, or perhaps not reach their full potential). But we know, as is also often expressed in Ofsted reports, Serious Case Reviews, etc., that interagency/collaborative working is key to serving families. Imagine a spider’s web where the cobwebs have lost their stickiness*. The web would just collapse.

So what can we all do? Here are few thoughts:

  • Where possible, get to know people and start to build trust when you first meet them.
  • Have a question ready to ask people in the awkward silence that sometimes happens at the beginning of a meeting while people are arriving: Anyone got any good news? Anyone proud of anything that has happened recently? Anyone got an unusual hobby?
  • If you are responsible for setting agendas, perhaps build in time for relationship building. It doesn’t always need to be the round robin at the beginning, it could happen in breakout groups. As a quick and easy win, get people to put their name and role in the chat.
  • Go for walking meetings which allow for a different type of interaction – a very efficient use of time which gives you health benefits as well.

How could you strengthen your ‘web’ of relationships today?

*Apologies to any biologists out there if this analogy isn’t biologically correct.

– Cate Newnes-Smith

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