In every area of life, building positive relationships enables us to connect openly with the people we spend our time with, sharing ideas, doing life together, leaving us secure in our sense of belonging and contribution. Whether it is with a boss, an employee, a client or customer, a supplier or colleague, the better our relationships, the more we feel engaged. Having great relationships is so basic and simple that sometimes we forget how really important they are, until we lose them. It’s people, not things, who make the difference.
Over many years of working in teams and studying human behaviour, there have been many instances where I have encountered people whose primary reason for being in the workplace or other team environment was to build relationships. For these people, the rise and fall of their “engagement” rests on the quality of relationships they feel empowered to build. The challenge we have as leaders is to recognise that people have different motives and drivers dependent on their personality and map of the world. Some people seek team environments, such as the workplace, as the best place to meet friends to socialise with on the weekends, or maybe even find a future husband or wife. The statistics suggest that 80% of men get most of their social interaction from work colleagues. Others have rules around separating work from play, not at all looking for their workplace to meet their social need of connection. As with all other dimensions of “people engagement”, relationships are very much an individual thing. As leaders, it is up to us to create a vehicle for our people to set the parameters for us.
Educating and understanding yourself, and your team, in personality and behavioural styles can be extremely useful. Many difficulties and conflicts in team relationships are not derived from unhealthy motives or malicious intent, but merely from a lack of understanding or a clash in communication styles. One person may think receiving an email from the next room is ridiculous and impersonal, but the other person may feel it gives you space to deal with it and respond at a time that suits you. If team members are given the opportunity to understand each others preferred style of relating, the chances for problems are reduced and the level of engagement increased.
The relationship between a leader and their team members is the most important from an engagement perspective. As we discussed a few weeks ago now, “People don’t leave organisations, they leave leaders”. First impressions count so the best time for building relationships with those you lead is early in the process. When a new member comes on board, show them you care about their well being by spending time with them, showing interest in their life, connecting them with others so they can quickly establish a sense of belonging. In our current Federal Election process there have been many comments from people who have never seen their local member out in the community yet they appear to use a pre-election campaign as a way of getting you engaged.
Relationships are a process not an event. Like a marriage, it is an ongoing process and they need to be constantly monitored and worked on or they will break. It is not enough to say and do a few things right, tick a few boxes and have it all done. As leaders, it is sometimes too easy to take for granted the importance of relationships, pushing them aside under the pressures of output and productivity goals. Now that we know the importance of relationships, we must make time for them or the resulting lack of engagement will bring further pressure and instability.
Have an amazing week, filled with mutually profitable relationships. You deserve it!
The People Builder