Build a relationship map of your organization

In this article:

  • How to easily visualize the relationships in your team?
  • How this tool will help you create a better cohesion between team members?
  • Practical exercises

What is a relationship map?

1. Grab a pen.

2. Write down the names of each team member in a random order.

3. Make a line between every two team members. This line should represent their relationship:

…. (dots)ย  – if their relationship suffers (unresolved issues; aggressive or passive-aggressive communication; they don’t like each other etc.)

โ€” (thin line) – if their relationship is OK but nothing special

โ€” (bold line) – if they have a strong relationship

4. Your map should resembles the picture above

Why do you need a relationship map?

  1. A relationship map is an easy to make visual representation of the cohesion of your team:
  • If the majority of the relationships in your team are the dots type, that’s a big red flag that the team is about to fall apart.
  • If the thin lines prevail you are in a “not great, not terrible” situation. You still need to put a lot more effort into strengthening your unit.
  • Tap yourself on the shoulder if there’s an abundance of strong relationships in your organization

2. You’ll identify certain types of people in the organization:

  • The rotten apples* – most probably you know about them long before you’ve drawn a relationship map – the ones that have a lot of rotten relationships.
  • The Robinson Crusoes – They may be harder to notice. These people have only thin lines (with one or two exceptions). They won’t complain about it. But the lack of strong relationships means that these people are lonely in the organization. They don’t feel surrounded by like-minded individuals and this would prevent them from reaching their full potential. Worse, they are more likely to leave the company.
  • The influencersย  – Management books used to call them informal leaders but influencers sounds so much cooler nowadays ๐Ÿ™‚ These people are surrounded by lots of bold lines on the graph. Like all influencers, they may be the biggest asset or threat for your company.

3. The map will help you amend bad relationships.

  • Imagine the following situation:

Steve and Marion just don’t get along with each other but they both have a strong relationship with Maria. In this case Maria can help them understand each other better and facilitate the discussion when arguments arise, thus building trust between Steve and Marion one step at a time. This is in fact pure social science.

Exercises for your team

The soft version:

  1. Get the team together.
  2. Explain what a relationship map is and ask each of them to draw one.
  3. Each team member shares what is the prevailing type of relationships on their graph. (they don’t show their maps to each other)
  4. Ask them what do they think the team should do to raise the number of strong relationships to a maximum.
  5. Each team member shares their ideas (make a list).
  6. Vote the ideas and start implementing the ones that gathered the most support.

The hard version (appropriate for teams which have spent some time together and have built a certain level of trust or… teams which have some serious issues and need to face them up front. The latter case requires a more skillful moderation so that people can open up and share.)

  1. Get the team together.
  2. Explain what a relationship map is and ask each of them to draw one.
  3. Each team member shows the relationship map they have drawn and explains their point of view about the relationships in the team. You should facilitate the process carefully. The team might have some WOW moments here:
  • Imagine that Cooper believes that he has strong relationships with most people. Yet, most people think he has built bad or (at best) average relationships
  • You can start a team discussion on how to improve a certain relationship everyone finds toxic
  • Let’s say that most team members identify Juliane as an influencer. Ask each one to share their thoughts on the subject – “What does Juliane does differently to build such strong relationships? Can we learn from her?”
  • You can propose a one-on-one meeting between team members that have different evaluation of their mutual relationship

P.S. For organizations with up to 15 employees you can draw a map for the whole organization. For larger companies, work with the different teams

*”the rotten apple” name is shamelessly stolen from the great workshops of SoftSkillsPillย ๐Ÿ™‚ I love it

NEXT:ย In the next article we will take a look at the funny side of Start-up life. Here is an extract: “What Start-up founders say: Our product quality is exceptional. What they really mean: When we work on quality, we make a lot of exceptions.” Sign up to CEOmoments’ newsletter to read the whole article.


About me:ย Apart from acting as a CEO of DEV.BG (the biggest IT community in Bulgaria) I help CEOs of small companies build their business. If you face a case I can help you with, drop me a message onย LinkedIN.

Excuse my English ๐Ÿ™‚ English is not my mother tongue and as you have seen it may be improved. Though, I believe that my level of command of the language covers the basic criteria in order for me to convey my ideas.