How Deep and Meaningful Are Your Relationships?


Collin Barr has a framed vision statement behind his desk that reads: Solid Business Builder, Great Community Builder, He Made a Real Difference. As a market president for a national construction, development and property management company, he has indeed built and made a difference.

Like many successful leaders, Collin pushes the limits of his schedule while pulling others into his network. For example, he helped lead the build-out of Minneapolis Downtown East, a mixed-use, highly visible $500M project surrounding the new Minnesota Vikings football stadium. He sacrificed nights and weekends and built relationships with owners, politicians and stakeholders at all levels.

Huge success. Well-regarded for his accomplishments and values. What could be missing?

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Lately, he’s been wondering, Do I have deep relationships or surface relationships? Do my relationships center around vulnerability and personal growth…or do they center around tasks and business results?

He came to the conclusion that there hasn’t been enough depth. He wants people to know him, challenge him and help him grow.

So he began a more deliberate pursuit of deep and profound relationships. For Collin, it’s about connection and growth. He’s been reaching out more frequently to about 10 or 15 people—from church, non-profit work, colleagues, clients—talking on the phone. His goal: Don’t go through a day without connecting with one of them on a meaningful, heartfelt level. These relationships push the envelope for him to learn, develop and pursue excellence.

One example of how this has played out is his cherished meetings on the Bethel University governing board. Almost everyone on the board is older than him and has broader experience. He says that he is learning from them about grace and perspective. As a result, when his work team lost a project to a competitor after several years of effort, he was able to lead with more grace and a greater perspective about what’s really important in the long term.

Deep and meaningful relationships are important for all of us. Here are the lessons I take away from Collin’s pursuit:

  1. Assess the depth and quality of your relationships. This isn’t a question of how many people you know or how busy you are. It’s a question of how many people really know who you are on the inside. It’s also a question of how many people know you well enough, and connect with you often enough, to challenge you.
  2. Make a decision to be vulnerable. As I’ve discussed in previous posts, revealing all parts of who you are, not just your Facebook highlights, builds courage and connection. For most people, transparency doesn’t just happen. It’s an intentional choice.
  3. Deliberately pursue a realistic number of diverse people. Pursue. Realistic. Diverse. Those are the three key words. Wait for them to come to you, and deep relationships may never develop. Try it with too many people, and it will be more depleting than filling. Connect only with people who think and look like you, and the relationships will have limited potential to help you grow.
  4. Invest time every day constantly connecting. I have two recurring tasks on my to-do list. One is to schedule time with a meaningful personal connection, and the other is to schedule time with a professional connection who pushes me to grow. If I don’t schedule it, weeks can go by without it happening.
  5. Be receptive to challenge and growth. Realizing the full benefit of deep and meaningful relationships requires receptivity to change. It calls you to confront your insecurities, immaturity and ignorance. It goes back to vulnerability. Will you be fixed in your mindset or growth-oriented as you are challenged by the presence of people who really know who you are?

How meaningful are your relationships? What steps could you take to increase your investment?

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