It is common to hear people talk about the value they place on spending time with their family. The time strengthens bonds, provides the opportunity to both give and receive guidance, and helps fill a critical human need for meaningful relationships. It is rewarding for the person and for their family.
While recently reading an article promoting the value of managers investing in employees, it occurred to me how important the difference is between ‘spending time’ and ‘investing time.’ This gap is easy to overlook, and yet it is a key component of a healthy organization. An ‘investment’ is a devotion to an undertaking with the expectation of a worthwhile return. There is an implied trade-off; the investment of time is made for an expected beneficial gain for the person doing the investment. If a relationship is built exclusively on a foundation of ‘investment,’ it means the investor is always expecting something in return. The person being invested in always owes a worthwhile result to the investor to live up their part of the agreement.
In the realm of manager and employee relationships, it makes sense to invest in things like training, where there is an expected benefit for the company and the employee. It makes sense to invest in coaching, where there is an expected benefit in helping employees become more efficient and productive contributors. If your mentality on relationships with employees stops at investing, though, there is an essential element missing.
Imagine hearing someone say, “I invested time with Jeff when his father passed away.” That simply is not how a healthy relationship works. You would not ‘invest’ time with an employee to listen to them talk about a major event in their personal life; you would ‘spend’ time supporting them with no expectation of a return benefit. You would not ‘invest’ time to listen with empathy or discuss with humility; you ‘spend’ time doing those things because establishing real connections through honest relationships is a core part of making yourself and the person you spend time with feel valued.
If you have been focusing on increasing engagement and seeking ways to invest in employees, and have not thought about the importance of genuine relationships and the power of ‘spending’ time with people you share so much common experience with day after day, I’d encourage you to set aside the journal articles for just a bit and have some conversations with no expectation of tangible return on your time. You will end up making positive, personal impacts on those you spend time with and on yourself. Ensure your relationship budget includes both investing and spending; not for the expectation of return, but simply because it is the right way to interact with people.