Leading Through Trust Series: Relationships

How do we build strong, positive relationship? Did you know that having good friends in the workplace can boost your job satisfaction? How good are the relationships that you have with your colleagues?

According to the Gallup Organization, people who have a best friend at work are seven times more likely to be engaged in their jobs. And it doesn’t have to be a best friend: Gallup found that people who simply had a good friend in the workplace are more likely to be satisfied. In this article, we’re looking at how you can build strong, positive relationships at work. We’ll see why it’s important to have good working relationships, and we’ll look at how to strengthen your relationships with people that you don’t naturally get on with.

Human beings are naturally social creatures – we crave friendship and positive interactions, just as we do food and water. So, it makes sense that the better our relationships are at work, the happier and more productive we’re going to be. Good working relationships give us several other benefits: our work is more enjoyable when we have good relationships with those around us. Also, people are more likely to go along with changes that we want to implement, and we’re more innovative and creative. What’s more, good relationships give us freedom: instead of spending time and energy overcoming the problems associated with negative relationships, we can, instead, focus on opportunities.

This is the third article in a six part series on trust. You can read about how to be more transparent here.

2-1030x578 Leading Through Trust Series: Relationships

Defining a Good Relationship

There are several characteristics that make up good, healthy working relationships:

Trust This is the foundation of every good relationship. When you trust your team and colleagues, you form a powerful bond that helps you to work and communicate more effectively. If you trust the people you work with, you can be open and honest in your thoughts and actions, and you don’t have to waste time and energy “watching your back.”

Mutual Respect – When you respect the people who you work with, you value their input and ideas, and they value yours. Working together, you can develop solutions based on your collective insight, wisdom and creativity.

Mindfulness – This means taking responsibility for your words and actions. Those who are mindful are careful and attend to what they say, and they don’t let their own negative emotions impact the people around them.

Diversity – People with good relationships not only accept diverse people and opinions, but they welcome them. For instance, when your friends and colleagues offer different opinions from yours, you take the time to consider what they have to say and factor their insights into your decision-making.

Open Communication – We communicate all day, whether we’re sending emails or meeting face to face. The better and more effectively you communicate with those around you, the richer your relationships will be. All good relationships depend on open, honest communication.

How to Build Good Relationships

Although we should try to build and maintain good working relationships with everyone, there are certain relationships that deserve extra attention. For instance, you’ll likely benefit from developing good relationships with not only your team members, but also key stakeholders in your organisation. These are the people who have a stake in your success or failure. Forming a bond with these people will help you to ensure that your projects and career, stay on track.

#1: Develop Your People Skills

Good relationships start with good people skills. But first, we each need to identify our own relationship needs. Do you know what you need from others? And do you know what they need from you? Understanding these needs can be instrumental in building better relationships.

#2: Schedule Time to Build Relationships 

I sometimes hear team leaders – or members of the team themselves – say that they haven’t caught up 1-on-1 for several weeks. In order to build trust, team leaders must devote sufficient time towards relationship building. So, how frequently you should catch up with team members? I don’t think there are any hard and fast rules, but what I recommend is weekly 15-minute conversations, with one of those per month being a longer meeting which is not about their to-do lists, tasks or projects.

Instead, it’s about them. Ask them how they’re doing, ask them what support they need, ask them about relationships in the team, and finally, ask them about their role and their level of engagement. This can also move to a broader career discussion. Ask ‘what else can I do to support you having a stimulating and enjoyable place in the team?’ It goes a long way, believe me.

Don’t forget the little moments that matter – for example by saying good morning to people, checking in regularly even just for 30 seconds. These little interactions help build the foundation of a good relationship, especially if they’re face-to-face.

#3: Focus on Your EI

Also, spend time developing your emotional intelligence (EI). Among other things, this is your ability to recognise your own emotions, and clearly understand what they’re telling you. High EI also helps you to understand the emotions and needs of others which is the focus of the next level – Understanding.

#4: Appreciate Others

Show your appreciation whenever someone helps you. Everyone, from your boss to the office cleaner, wants to feel that their work is appreciated. So, genuinely compliment the people around you when they do something well. This will open the door to great work relationships.

#5: Be Positive

Focus on being positive. Positivity is attractive and contagious, and it will help strengthen your relationships with your colleagues. No one wants to be around someone who’s negative all the time.

#6: Manage Your Boundaries

Make sure that you set and manage boundaries properly – all of us want to have friends at work, but, occasionally, a friendship can start to impact our jobs, especially when a friend or colleague begins to monopolize our time. If this happens, it’s important that you’re assertive about your boundaries, and that you know how much time you can devote during the work day for social interactions.

#7: Avoid Gossiping

Don’t gossip – office politics and “gossip” are major relationship killers at work. If you’re experiencing conflict with someone in your group, talk to them directly about the problem. Gossiping about the situation with other colleagues will only exacerbate the situation and will cause mistrust and animosity between you. You may have heard the terms ‘above the line’ and ‘below the line’. Above the line is about taking ownership, accountability and responsibility for things that happen, whereas below the line is when our behaviour can be damaging. It’s about blame, excuses and denial. It’s toxic. Gossiping or talking badly about people behind their back is below the line. As a leader, we must try really hard not to do this.

#8: Listen Actively

Practice active listening when you talk to your customers and colleagues. People respond to those who truly listen to what they have to say. Focus on listening more than you talk, and you’ll quickly become known as someone who can be trusted.

Difficult Relationships

Occasionally, you’ll have to work with someone you don’t like, or someone that you simply can’t relate to. But, for the sake of your work, it’s essential that you maintain a professional relationship with him. When this happens, make an effort to get to know the person. It’s likely that she knows full well that the two of you aren’t on the best terms, so make the first move to improve the relationship by engaging him in a genuine conversation, or by inviting him out to lunch. While you’re talking, try not to be too guarded. Ask him about his background, interests and past successes. Instead of putting energy into your differences, focus on finding things that you have in common. Just remember – not all relationships will be great; but you can make sure that they are, at least, workable!

Next time, we will talk about Understanding.