As I sip on my immunity boosting concoction of ginger-turmeric tea and partake in the lively family breakfast debate of COVID, politics, the economy and more, with each turn of the morning newspaper, I can’t help but reflect on the value of relationships and relationship systems in these precarious times.

It is of no surprise to any of us that periods of uncertainty, complexity and crisis serve as good reminders of the importance of relationships in our lives. The COVID context has proved to be particularly interesting in this realm, as it has functioned as a way to strengthen some of those bonds, while also putting a number of them to a serious test! After all, we are each a part of many relationship systems- as family members, spouses/partners, as parents, as friends, as teams, as colleagues, as leadership, as organisations and more.

From excess exposure in certain instances to a lack of interaction in others, these trying times have ensured that our relationships, both personally and professionally, are being challenged on almost a daily basis. 

As a leadership and performance coach, supporting individuals at this time, I was forced to further explore this space in my own practice over COVID as I looked to address these difficulties faced by my clients. 

How could they look beyond the micro challenges that they are faced with in relationships and contextualise it to the larger relationship system of which they are a part?

And what skills did they need to build as they navigated this complex terrain and found balance across their relationship systems?

Over the last few years, in my work with startup founders, partners at LLPs, co-heads in teams and next gen at family businesses, I got familiar with the fascinating work done by Marita Fridjhon and Faith Fuller on Relationship Systems Intelligence ™ or RSI, as it is popularly called. RSI, which was put to application by Anne Rod, emerges from a web of research on leadership, systems theory and intelligence, as it looks to add another dimension to the intelligence field and looks at individual expression as a voice of a system. 

As I thought about the various relationship-related challenges faced by the executives and leaders who I actively work with, the importance of building RSI in the context of COVID seemed almost critical. As our relationships face conflict daily, whether it is over little housework annoyances, team differences or larger organisational alignment issues, shifting the perspective away from the individual to the system seems crucial.

If it wasn’t already demanding to be cognizant of and build Emotional Intelligence (an understanding of the self), Social Intelligence (the impact on others), we are now discussing skill building in yet another sphere, an extension of both these as we look to develop RSI.

For readers who are about to tear their hair out at this point, take a moment and keep going, as RSI has proven to accelerate collaboration, support creative thinking, resolve conflict, align purpose, increase trust, navigate changes, and look beyond the daily difficulties to take a more holistic approach, while giving an equal voice to each individual in the system.

In teams and in organisations this becomes particularly relevant at this time as we work in the silos of our home, away from our water cooler chats and coffee catch-ups, while trying to align ourselves to a common goal and purpose. 

So, if any of this resonates with you or sparks your curiosity, here are five simple ways for you to navigate your challenges to manage your relationship systems over COVID: 

1. Try not to forget the power of the collective: In times of difficulty and crisis, it is important to recognise the role that the ecosystem plays in our lives. Having the support of family, colleagues, teams and leaders, is critical to be able to survive and thrive in an evolving world. So, take a moment to identify your relationship systems and think about what you can do more of to nurture them today!

2. Also remember, you are more than likely on the same side: When we get focused on the micro, we can often get caught in proving our point to the extent that we forget to take perspective. The next time you find yourself in a conflict or misalignment, think about what is important about the relationship for you and what could you be prepared to let go of to make it work? 

3. When in doubt, take a moment and walk in their shoes: Sometimes bringing a shift in the relationship may require you to see the situation from their side. So, ask yourself, if you could walk a mile in their shoes, what is it that you might discover? What does the relationship need from all parties at this time? Remember, only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches, so don’t forget to take that into consideration!

4. And sometimes, look within to take a step out to check in: Times of change and uncertainty usually lend themselves to exposing our limiting beliefs and negative thoughts. A great way to self-check during a relationship conflict, is to step out to think about what voice or thought we are listening to and what role is it playing in how we perceive the situation? 

5. Find a way to make time for some appreciation and don’t discount the gratitude factor: Remember all relationships need constant work, nurturing and revitalising. So, if you haven’t already, do that one thing to show gratitude and remind your relationship systems how much you value them. 


  • Shubika Bilkha

    Leadership Coach. Entrepreneur. Author. Partner


    Shubika is a dynamic leadership and performance coach who has worked with a number of professionals, CXOs and senior level executives across corporates, industries and educational institutions. She is the Founding Partner of EdpowerU that specializes in working with millennial and GenZ managers and leaders on their workplace behaviour and personal leadership development. She has an ideal combination of corporate experience, having worked with large companies such as Deloitte in Corporate Finance in London, provided advisory services to a number of small and medium sized businesses, as well as been the Managing Director of two early-stage start-ups in technology and education. Shubika is a published author and a prominent media spokesperson who contributes regularly to key publications, portals, radio and television channels in India on HR, leadership, behavior and education related topics. Shubika is an alumna of Mount Holyoke College, USA and Columbia Business School, USA; a certified Executive Coach from the International Coaching Federation (ICF) Accredited CTI, London, and has completed a certification in Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) from the Massachusetts General Hospital, Department of Psychiatry, USA. She is also currently a Co-Chair of the Women’s Initiative at the WIC Indo-American Chamber of Commerce (IACC). She is an Associate Member of the Chartered Securities Institute (CSI) in the UK; and has completed the “Building Excellence in Higher Educational Institutions” at the Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad.