What can project teams and our VP of Sales learn from people who have long-distance romantic relationships? It turns out quite a bit.
Research from Queens University in Canada, on people who have long-distance romantic relationships, offers some insight to how you can make a working relationship work. Here are some of the things the research showed:
- Set reasonable, mutual expectations. According to Emma Dargie, the woman in charge of the study, “According to our research, it’s not necessarily how far apart you are or how little you see your partners, it’s more about the discrepancy between your expectations for relationships and the reality of your current situation.” If those expectations are set and met, both people say they are fine. If someone begins to want something different than the other person, there can be trouble in paradise.
- Make technology your friend. Back in the days when you needed a goose quill and ink to communicate, there were huge communication gaps, which allowed things like loneliness, suspicion and jealousy to get in the way of your romantic bliss. Now we can communicate visually, and at the speed of light. However, one of the things Dargie’s study shows is that both parties should agree how, how often, and when to communicate. Otherwise, one person’s attentiveness can be someone else’s cyberstalking. (Are you beginning to see the theme here?)
- Make up for infrequent communication by longer and more intimate conversations. Don’t get excited, we’re not suggesting anything improper here. Still, if you’re not talking as often, you need to make the most of the time you have. One thing that good long-distance managers and employees do is keep a running list of items to discuss so that when they do connect, they really talk about what’s important. There’s nothing worse than hanging up and thinking, “darn, I forgot to say _____”
In the end, the researchers found little difference in the quality of the romantic relationship or commitment. The study did show, though, that if the relationship is strong, it can stay strong. If there are obvious problems, distance is liable to make them worse (or at least more obvious.)
The analogy here to the workplace is obvious. A solid relationship, founded on mutual expectations and goals, can survive with some work. A bad relationship is going to be hard to manage.
We’re holding a free webinar next month, What Long-Distance Leaders Need to Know: Developing Leadership Skills for How We Really Work Today. You can learn more and register to join us here.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager
Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in Management-Issues.com.