(Photo Courtesy of Philippe Ramakers via stock.xchng.)

Every year I pick out one relationship that I want to improve. Sometimes it’s a work relationship. Other times it’s a relationship with a family member. Regardless, I set a specific relationship goal for the year. Some years I look back at the end of the year and say to myself, “Sweet. Things with X have definitely gotten better. Well done ‘B’ (that’s what I call myself. Feel free to call me that… or anything you like. I won’t be offended). ‘B,’ you are a rock star (I’m all about positive affirmation).” Other years, the conversation isn’t quite so positive “What was holding you back? All you had to do was ask out X to lunch / dinner a little more often, call them a little more frequently, etc… Suck it up. Get going you slacker…” The point isn’t my crazy self talk (although it is probably entertaining to hear… After all, I’m a big fan of “healthy delusional thinking”). The point is that I have a relationship goal every year. Without, there is no way to gauge progress with the relationships in my life I want to nurture and grow.

Do you have a relationship goal?

You are not escaping this post without defining the one relationship you want to improve this year. That simple. Take a deep breath, steel yourself and get thinking. To help you, consider the following categories:

The Grumpy Boss – Maybe you wish your relationship with your boss was a bit better… or perhaps a lot better. What I can tell you is sitting back and waiting for it to change “ain’t gonna happen.” I can also tell you that the strategy of hiding out waiting for it to get better also won’t do the trick, particularly if they have a bad misperception of your. Remember, in absence of communication, people will always assume the worst. It’s only going to get better if you do something about it.

The Nasty Coworker – If you’ve got a coworker that’s picking on you and making you the target of office politics, issues, and complaints, the burden is on you to turn that dynamic around. Think back to middle school. Trying to ignore it (as much this is professed as the right solution) rarely works. It only heightens their efforts. Ignoring people trying to get a reaction does NOT get them to go away. It simply invites them to turn up the volume. If you’ve got this dilemma, you’re gonna need to do something about it.

The Difficult Customer – Similar the nasty coworker, this person can throw wrenches and blame your way at a moment’s notice. Different from the difficult coworker, this person can make or break your success and reputation virtually overnight. There are few people leaders listen to more than key customers. If you’ve got a difficult one you want to nurture, make it a priority for this year.

The Wayward Relative / Friend – Here’s a little twist on the relationship goal. Perhaps as work and life have gone into hyperdrive, you’ve lost touch with a relative or friend from years gone by. You haven’t seen the cousin you used to build forts with for years. Do they still like to build forts? You haven’t talked to your college roommate in so long, you still remember him / her in Birkenstocks. Can you still buy Birkenstocks? Should someone from this category be on your list?

The Significant Other (or someone else living in your house) – This category doesn’t need much description. It’s self explanatory. If you’ve got someone who currently lives under the same roof as you (or you would like them to be) and things aren’t “rock solid,” I promise you that the only cure to that dilemma is investing time, energy and love. Hiding and hoping won’t cut it. Make this the top of your list (This category even trumps “The Boss.” After all, I don’t think you want your boss crashing on your couch).

What are you going to do and when are you gonna do it?

To take this on, write down 3 things you could be doing more of to improve the relationship. This could be things like:

  • More frequent phone calls, voicemails and overall communication
  • Taking them to lunch and other forms of appreciation to recognize / thank them
  • Date nights (probably not a good idea if this is your boss…)
  • Surprising gifts and other efforts to show thoughtfulness and their importance to you
  • Etc…

Finally, ask yourself “so when am I gonna do this?” Put it on your calendar (yes, even schedule an Outlook reminder if you have to). Goals without a plan are dreams. I think I read that somewhere. Anywho, it’s true so wrap a plan around it to make it work.

Got your relationship? Got your plan? If the answers are “yes,” you are free to go. Get working and I look forward to you telling yourself that you are a “rock star” at the end of the year. Though I highly recommend that you wear your blue tooth when you say it so others think you are on the phone. Just sayin’…