The success we experience in our personal and professional lives is strongly influenced by our ability to build, maintain and restore relationships. The more effective we are with these skills, the more effective we will be at leading and guiding others, and the more pathways we will create for success.
We develop an endless number of relationships in and around our workplace – employees, peers, customers, vendors, industry alliances and community. Some of these relationship are developed out of need, and some by choice. But, every sustainable relationship, whether it is personal or professional, takes time and a conscious effort to cultivate.
When we accept personal accountability to create healthy relationships in the workplace, it usually means we have open and honest communication forging a foundation of mutual trust and respect with each other. When we use these skills on a consistent basis, we diminish the risk of alienating others.
Applying the basics
In a recent survey, I asked – “Aside from open and honest communication, what are the other elements of a good relationship in the workplace?” The respondents represented individuals from 21 different industries, in a broad range of leadership positions, and in small to large for-profit and not-for profit businesses.
Although, many of the responses were the same or similar, the top two words people selected outside of “communication” were “trust” and “respect.” Survey participants also felt “alignment of core values,” “flexibility,” “patience,” and “teamwork” were key elements in their workplace relationships.
Add a little “courage” to the basics
When relationships fail, it can usually be traced back to a misunderstanding triggered by assumptions and ineffective communication.
Unfortunately, failed relationships lead to mistrust, poor behaviors and performance, lack of engagement, employee turnover and lost opportunities. Our greatest challenges are preventing them from failing in the first place, and then rebuilding them as soon as possible, if and when they do fail.
Epicurus, the Ancient Greek Philosopher, said – “You don’t develop courage by being happy in your relationships every day. You develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity.”
Even if the translation from Greek to English is skewed by time and interpretation, Epicurus’ connection between “courage” and “relationships” helps us realize opportunities for personal growth and development lie in how we handle “difficult times and challenging adversity.” The trick is to not become complacent in our relationships, or reliant on others to deal with the challenges and fix the problems. Take the lead and be courageous in your efforts to bring people back to the basics – communication, trust and respect.
Too complacent to communicate?
Our busy, and sometimes overwhelming lives, make it easy for us to become complacent, especially with the people we spend the most time. Once this happens, we start making assumptions that others know exactly what we want and expect from them. And, when they don’t come through with the results, we are disappointed and annoyed.
Where complacency starts to threaten a relationship is when we don’t address or confront the other person directly and quickly regarding our disappointment. Instead, we theoretically throw up our hands and say “it shouldn’t be this difficult.”
Don’t start down a path that could have been avoided. Make the time to apply a little extra effort and communicate more information up front. Let people know what you are thinking and what you expect from them.
The longer people work together, and create synergetic relationships, the more similarly they will answer these questions. Asking your team to describe a key word like “accountability” at different levels of understanding (look like, sound like, feel like) will help them have a deeper, more visual perspective.
Taking a pulse on your skills
Check-in with your relationship-building skills by asking the people you lead, and work closely with, to identify your abilities. The question might sound like this – “What skills do I demonstrate well in my relationships with the people I work with, and in what areas do I need to improve?”
Let those who participate in this exercise help hold you accountable for enhancing what you do well, and what you need to improve. It will make them feel more connected to you, and they will learn from the experience.