Building and maintaining good working relationships with your colleagues and stakeholders is essential for anyone in a leadership position. An effective leader will look to continuously build good connections and open flowing channels of communication with the people he/she leads, knowing this is key to everyone working well together to achieve common goals.
A relationship-focussed leader has a goal of consistently strengthening and improving relationships and has the understanding that in doing so, you are more likely to have staff who are fulfilled, feel they are appreciated and are most likely to thrive in their jobs.
Three relationship tools to focus on
Building and maintaining strong work relationships is not easy, especially when most work environments are inevitably a melting-pot of personalities with different agendas, motivations and ambitions all at play. In these situations, even the most ‘natural born leaders’ amongst us, could do with some tried and tested techniques to build strong relationships. Thankfully, there are some fool proof relationship-building tools that seem to be effective in all human situations, including the workplace.
I’m going to concentrate on the three tools I think are most effective for relationship building strategies.
- Build Rapport
Rapport is something that is built and established over time. Once rapport has been developed, trust comes into play and a relationship strengthens over time. A relationship where rapport is strong has the excellent lines of communication and is one where mutual respect flourishes. The best way to build rapport is to minimise differences and to increase similarity. When we can relate to and identify with people, we naturally increase rapport. Some quick practical ways to help you build rapport in one-on-one conversations are;
• Ask open-ended questions about current or previous work, their education, their children or interests outside of work. This shows that you are interested in them but most importantly sets up the opportunity to establish similarities or shared interests that you can later use to further build the relationship bond.
• Acknowledge achievements and efforts. This can be as simple as adding ‘great work’ or ‘this has been well thought through’ to an email or mentioning in passing that they are doing really well on their current project. Receiving a genuine compliment on your work is reassuring and motivating for all of us and makes us feel valued as people, not just employees. Compliments can go a long way in developing rapport and trust over time.
• Check in with your team. Set up formal or informal moments to check in and see if your team members are coping OK, or simply giving them the opportunity to get some clarity on something without them having to take the first step to ask, also helps in developing good healthy working rapport. This is particularly important for new employees, who may feel unsure and unsettled. It is vital to show them you are there to offer your support, to re-enforce they are valued, and to help them be successful in their role.
- Be vulnerable
It’s not easy for most of us to show vulnerability. We have largely been brought up to see vulnerability as a weakness and certainly not the trait of a strong leader. Yet we all feel vulnerable from time to time, and the truth it, admitting your vulnerability to others can actually be the most powerful way to build trust and strengthen relationships.
As Brene Brown points out in her best-selling book “Daring Greatly” being vulnerable takes courage, and can transform your relationships. In fact she says showing your vulnerability is the only way to build deep connections with others.
Step outside of your comfort zone from time to time to show your insecurities and don’t be afraid to expose some of your vulnerabilities in the right context. Admit that you don’t know all the answers, admit you are a little worried that a certain approach may fail. Be willing to express your anxiety or your uncertainty. It will actually work to build trust and rapport amongst your team in a way that nothing else can.
The next time you find yourself avoiding a meeting with a particular person or are not sure how to approach a sensitive topic, try fist admitting this; “Look I have been a little anxious about how to bring this up..” or “I feel a little awkward to say this …”. Good people naturally want to help those that are vulnerable, so having the courage to show your vulnerability will trigger engagement and will help form deeper connections with your team. Be brave enough to give it a go and see how things unfold, it may surprise you.
Effective leaders have effective listening skills, engaging in active listening, that is, listening with the intent of understanding. Giving your staff the respect of your unpided attention and a safe platform to express themselves is vital to keep them engaged and motivated. If you have already worked to build trust and rapport with your team and you actively listen to their ideas, their concerns and their ambitions, and even better act on them, you are further strengthening your bond. When you are listening with the intent of understanding, the communication needs to be two-way, so once they have given you feedback, ask some questions to help you understand better or to clarify what they have said. Make a point of summarising what they have said to show you understand and then work together to find solutions or to acknowledge that their feedback is important and valuable.
We have looked at some powerful ways in which to build better working relationships. It is so important to be consistent in your approach to building strong relationships and trust amongst your team. Use every conversation, every meeting, every networking event, every phone call and every email as an opportunity to make a deeper connection and build rapport.
Would you like to help your team strengthen their relationship building skills? I can help with my leadership training and custom workshops. Get in touch today.