Building strong relationships is key.
I have had a multi-part blog entry going on for the past few weeks to complete some thoughts I recently shared to a group of Pacific Lutheran MBAs. At the time of the talk, I had not yet announced my decision to leave Jobster. As my final day at Jobster passed by, it worked out nicely that one of the most important entries yet to be written was about building relationships. I shared my final day with a few other long time colleagues, Jeff and Marty, who are also moving on to some very cool opportunities.
They held a going away party for us on a Thursday night at the J&M Cafe, across the street from our first offices in Pioneer Square, which seemed fitting. As people started flowing in and grabbing a drink, it hit me how great it was to see "Jobster Alumni" in addition to current Jobster employees. Interesting side note: the population of Jobster alumni is now surpassing existing employees.
So, the title of my original entry was, "Relationships above all else." What I was going to talk about was how I try to use this as a guide when navigating through any situation, professional or otherwise. As conflicts arise, which they always do, I tend to handle it best when I keep an eye to maintaining a good relationship with that person (or persons, group, organization, etc). Having worked in some pretty high stress environments over the years, including Army Intelligence, Microsoft, and a start-up, I have plenty of data points that support this belief.
What time has clearly shown me me is that ideas, businesses, organizations, teams, and projects come and go - but strong relationships last far beyond these things. We all have at some point worked with people that clearly do not have this is mind. They burn through co-workers and team members like a chainsaw, or throw them under the "political bus" whenever it suits their agenda. I really believe that this behavior will catch up with them in spades. It may serve them well in the short or even medium-term, but long-term they will find that they are shut out of opportunities.
When I decided to leave Microsoft in March of 2004, I had no idea how small and insular my professional network was at the time. While I knew hundreds of people, they were all at Microsoft, Expedia, or one of the Big 5 firms. Now that I have been at Jobster and bonded with some of the smartest & talented people in the industry, I have a healthy network that spans hundreds of companies, geographies, and industries. That is a nice thing to take with me.