Building Trusted Relationships

We all know that it’s ‘who you know – and engage’ and not ‘what you know’ that provides the fuel to get significant things accomplished. I’m always amazed at how quickly some people can get others ‘on board’ with an initiative or project while others struggle to gain traction.

Without doubt, with the integration of so many relationship apps in the workplace (LinkedIn, Facebook, Slack, etc.), there is even a greater need to build bridges to colleagues who have the competencies, experience and connections to make things happen.

Here are some ideas to strengthen your relationships in the workplace:

1.) Be authentic to establish meaningful connections.

  • People know when they’re dealing with a fake. When you’re real with yourself and others, you’ll find it easier to make authentic connections.
  • Authenticity is not an act. You need to know yourself, who you are and why you are who you are. You must be comfortable with yourself before you can be real with others.
  • Build genuine relationships by getting to know others more deeply. Not just at the surface level, but know what’s important to them, their motivations, their goals and their fears.
  • Only by being true to who you are can you encourage others to open up to you. In our digital world, it’s easy to put up a facade through social media and electronic communication. Authenticity happens face-to-face, over coffee, at a client site, through a firm handshake and eye-to-eye interactions.

personal style2.) Pay attention to your personal style.

  • Many times, negative personal styles get in the way of effective relationships. People who leave positive impressions get more things done with others than those who leave cold, insensitive or impersonal negative impressions.
  • Collaboration is easier when people are positive about each other. Convey warmth. Ask questions. Listen. Show your concern. Use humor. Offer your help. Be a person whom others want to be around.
  • Still not sure how you are perceived? Ask for feedback about your personal style from multiple sources (boss, peers, colleagues). Use various methods – in person or via a 360-degree survey for example.
  • Listen and make a plan. Show that you can handle criticism and that you are willing to work on the issues others identify as important.

3.) Share more if you’re overly private.

  • There’s a balance to be struck between being too private and sharing too much. When you share a little of yourself, you get more in return.
  • Let people know what you are thinking on a business issue. Talk about what’s important to you. Share snippets of your weekend, upcoming vacation or family events. It’s not about bragging or comparing. It’s being real and opening up to others.
  • Let people see into your world a little. Others are more likely to share with you when you take the first step and show a little bit of yourself. Reveal things people don’t need to know to do their jobs, but which will be interesting to them and help them feel valued.

4.) Be attuned to social cues.

  • Understanding the underlying dynamics of a conversation or a relationship helps you influence and connect with others. When others respond in an unusual manner, there may be more to it than meets the eye. Observe interactions. Watch how people respond.
  • Try to understand the underlying interrelationships between workgroups and individuals. Listen for more than words. What are people saying and not saying? Who works well together? Who doesn’t get along? What are the unspoken expectations? What are the cultural norms? Make a guess. Use your analytical skills to understand the social and interpersonal dynamics of the situation and respond accordingly.

5.) Work to understand what’s important to other people.

  • Building a productive relationship is far easier when you understand the world of the other person. The challenges they experience. What their priorities are. Opportunities they see in the near future.
  • business messagingMake it your business to dig beneath the surface. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Learn to talk their language. See life from their point of view. What is life like at their level of the organization? What’s going on in their business unit or function?
  • Recognize that sometimes people have personal or professional challenges that affect their ability to work with you — even if they don’t tell you about them.
  • When you are tapping into your network, anticipate a good response but don’t get discouraged if things don’t happen as you would like. When you understand others’ challenges, you will gain perspective on when and how to reach out to them.

6.) Be savvy with people you don’t particularly like.

  • In every organization, there are people who are more difficult to get along with than others. You’ll have an easy rapport with some and feel tense around others, but you can still be professional with everyone.
  • Is there someone who makes you want to hide around the corner when you see them coming? Do you dread being stuck in the elevator with this person? What should you do about these people?
  • First step, get to know them. There is rarely a person who is totally unlikeable. By getting to know them better, you may be able to make a connection. Don’t let your previous feelings get in the way of building a fresh relationship.
  • Draw a line in the sand. Start to see this individual as someone you are just getting to know. Do you have common interests? What strengths do you observe? What is important to him or her?
  • Put your judgments on hold, open up your thinking and take some time to understand who this individual is. A fly on the wall should not be able to tell whether you’re talking to a friend or foe. Talk less and ask more questions. Show that you care by dedicating some time to this relationship. This builds goodwill and trust.

7.) Monitor yourself in tough situations.

  • What’s the first thing you attend to? How often do you take a stand vs. make an accommodating gesture? What proportion of your comments deal with relationships vs. the issue to be addressed?
  • Mentally rehearse for worst-case scenarios or hard to deal with people. Anticipate what the person might say and have responses prepared so you are never caught off guard. Tend to think battle and justification? Think resolution and progress instead.
  • Collaboration isn’t caving to others’ opinions. Rather, know where you stand and communicate your perspective and needs in a direct, concise and clear manner.
  • Support your viewpoint with specific background and explanation. Tie your views back to the organizational goals and priorities. Focus on solving the problem rather than winning the argument.

Relationships are the fuel that makes things happen in the workplace, make it a prime focus to continually strengthen yours!

To find out how to get relevant and actionable feedback on your relationship-building skills, contact me today (scott@cygnusconsultants.com or 250-882-8830).

About The Author

Scott Borland, Founder & President of CYGNUS Management Consultants Inc, , is a recognized expert in helping executives host strategic conversations and obtain high impact feedback. He brings insightful perspective and proven strategies to strengthen the alignment between strategy and leadership behaviour. Scott has presented frequently at regional/national conferences and is a regular contributor to online journals/blogs. Follow Scott on Twitter or add him as a connection on LinkedIn.

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