The Importance of Relationship Building with Har Ye Kan

Relationship building in the context of community engagement

Relationships are the foundation for success in business and beyond, but how can you build strong relationships that go beyond just a single project? Har Ye Kan joins Vince to discuss how relationship-building in Holland has fostered the development of the thriving community we see today.

Top Takeaways:

  • Consider building and improving relationships to be an integral outcome of any project.
  • Community relationships have been responsible for Holland’s development.
  • In every potential threat, it’s important to look for opportunities for relationships.

Learn more about Har Ye Kan on her LinkedIn page.


Vince Boileau: Hey friends, welcome back to the Coffee Klatsch. This is a Boileau video series where we invite people on the show that we find interesting to talk about insights and practices and new ways of thinking. And today I’m joined by Har Ye Kan from HYK Consulting. Thanks for joining us.

Har Ye Kan: Thank you, Vince. 

VB: Har Ye joined us for a couple previous episodes. If you want to learn more about her, go back to our first episode where we talk about intentional inclusivity. But today, we’re going to talk about relationship building and why that’s important. Why is relationship building as important as the outcomes of whatever it is that we’re working on? 

HYK: I place kind of a huge value on the relationship of a team but also that there are different players in a community that can help make something happen. I moved from the east coast, right, from the border of Vermont, drove across country six years ago, and to arrive in Holland and to see what I define as a thriving community ,it’s really because of 30 years of hard work by people who work well together. And without that and the relationships that were built and the trust that was fostered generation after generation, I don’t think we would be enjoying [the] community that we have today.

VB: What are some ways that we can be intentional about relationship building or make space for it so it’s not so outcome focused that, you know, we maybe miss the journey?

HYK: At least in terms of the first episode that we had — which is about intentional inclusivity — it’s about making sure that multiple perspectives are represented and those perspectives are also shared. When I enter into a design workshop or charrette, if there are certain personalities that may not necessarily work very well together I may not put them in the same team, just so that there can be better collaboration, there can be less conflict, and we can also have a more constructive dialogue. 

VB: When you think about community planning, there are so many different stakeholders — a lot of different people coming to the table. All of them have different objectives. How is it that we create spaces for them to create relationships, rather than just maybe advocate for their own objective?

HYK: There needs to be some ground rules, right? It helps to manage the way in which voices are shared. Facilitation is a skill, and I think it takes a lot of thought. And when you create that vibe in a room, I think you’re inviting open dialogue, but it’s also creating little exercises along the way where people can meet each other at different tables and then be able to convene together at the end, so breakout sessions also matter. 

VB: I think about the Braver Angels meeting that I went to recently. The first thing you have to do is, you have to submit to the authority of the facilitator, knowing that by obeying these rules, we’re going to create space for everyone. You create the space for all kinds of different things to happen that wouldn’t normally happen because there’s a fairness and there’s an equality in the space that you wouldn’t normally have. I think about the dot voting exercise that you’re talking about. I think it’s a fascinating process.

HYK: Yeah that was quite an exercise. And it really goes back to that strategic visioning that we talked about. We distilled what were the potential elements and then we actually had them out on different boards. They could exercise their voice by putting a dot indicating what was important to them, and we then convened came back together, collated really what were some of the words that rose to the surface. But then we also got people to create little vision statements in those circles.

VB: You’re going up on the board and you’re going to put, you know, maybe one dot here or whatever, and then you see a stranger come up next to you and they put five dots down on the same thing. They turn to you and are just like, “I just really love this thing. Like, this, you know, this is my favorite part of Holland.  If it’s not walkable, I’m voting no,” and so it creates space for conversations.  

HYK: Yeah, conversations at the board, conversations at the table. I think that really makes a difference because you’re connecting as individuals. It’s about being able to see threat as an opportunity. When I learned Mandarin, the word “threat” or “crises” is actually a combination of two words: one, which is “danger,” and the second word is actually “opportunity.” And I think the call really to us is: can we see the opportunity in any perceived threat?

VB: Awesome, all right. So that’s relationship building.

HYK: Yeah, it is.

VB: Thanks for joining us for the Klatsch.

HYK: Thanks very much, Vince.

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