What is an engaged relationship?
“When you make the time to engage people and nurture relationships you’ll realize that the quality of your business, family and life is determined by the quality of your relationships. After all, it’s not the numbers that drive the people but the people and relationships that drive the numbers.”
I absolutely agree with this and everything I do in my work with leaders across a large range of organisations is based on building strong, trusting relationships with staff and customers alike. But what does that mean? I know people who immediately resist the notion because they think they will be expected to share their personal and social lives with colleagues. They worry about people stepping over their personal boundaries and may begin to question the other person’s motives. Perhaps they are right to be cautious in those situations.
So how do we decide what is appropriate to share in a business relationship especially when we are wanting to build what Patrick Lencioni refers to as vulnerability based trust – that level of sharing that builds empathy and starts to break down silo’s and competitive posturing. For me it has to do with knowing ourselves first so that we can show ourselves to others in full knowledge of how we impact them and our relationships.
For example, I am naturally a pretty open book. Because I share my life fairly easily with people, they in turn open up to me. My friends and I enjoy deep, confiding relationships. If I am on a two hour train journey with a stranger, chances are by the time we reach our destination we will have built rapport and know about each others families, jobs, and interests. At work it is essential to get to know each other at a deep level but it has to be based on authenticity, empathy and respect for personal boundaries and privacy.
Bottom line? Building strong working relationships means knowing our staff well, knowing how they think, their preferred communication style, what is top of their minds, what their strengths are, what motivates and excites them, what is worrying them. It also requires that you open up to them by owning mistakes, apologising where appropriate, and acknowledging that you don’t always know the answers. In other words, owning up to being a complex and fallible human being.
It also helps if you know the names of their children, where they went on holiday, what their interests are, but proceed with care. Let the ball remain in their court about how much else they share. Be alert to respond if they want to share more but don’t demand it. Being pushy about knowing more about their personal lives doesn’t build trust and potentially undermines it. Question your motives.
- What do you think?
- How are you building relationships within your team?