building relationships

October 27, 2010

Losing Your Best Employees

Working with a client this week, I came across one of those situations where a manager’s emotions can get confused.

I recall a training video where the manager concerned feels that if he develops his people enough, then they might be good enough to, well, get promoted and then they would leave him. And his misguided concern is that they will leave him to struggle!

The situation this week was similar. It was time for the manager’s trainee to move to a new deputy role, in a different arm of the business.

The manager was noticeably glad for the trainee, yet I could also sense a hint of sadness that he was losing a valuable member of the team – one who he’d nurtured himself to an enhanced level of performance.

In fact, losing people to new challenges – especially when they have developed to their potential – is pretty much always a good thing.

Managers who deliver great team members who are capable of moving onwards and upwards can celebrate with them – in more ways than one.

Firstly, that they (the manager) have done a great job. One where they have used their people skills to draw from that individual all the possibilities that they had within them.

Secondly, that the individual will be moving on to better personal opportunities for their own future (not least they often get a pay hike too!).

Thirdly, that they will learn more somewhere else – after all, one manager simply cannot provide all the growth for an individual.

Finally (and I’m aware there might be even more positives that others might be able to provide here), there’s another upside that all managers can draw from good people moving on.

There will be another new trainee right along soon. And there’s nothing like a new challenge to keep a manager sharp, engaged and able to reflect on how they themselves can evolve, as they start along the path to create new excellence from another raw recruit.

Filed under Blog, Developing Your People, Management Basics, Managing Me by Martin

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March 17, 2010

Outcomes to Seek When Building Workplace Relationships

The relationships any manager builds with his employees is the critical factor that will decide whether they are successful.

No manager is an island and with the help and support of their team, they will be able to deliver. There is work to do to achieve this.

Managers make relationships with the people in their team for a number of reasons. There is, however only one bottom line purpose for any of the activities that managers get involved in – and that’s to deliver the outcomes that are required of them.

Relationships are the facilitator of success and there are real and vital reasons for this. Working with a team of people opens up the scope of possibilities for managers, such that there is leverage in the simple numbers, as well as varied inputs from the different characters there.

When relationships are built based on trust, honesty and shared purpose, there are many simple outcomes that will lead to that end goal being delivered.

Such relationships are easy to create when you ensure that you spend at least some part of your day in easy conversations with your people. Once that’s in place, between you will find you are much more able to deliver:-

•    Openness – ensuring that each side is prepared to let the other in
•    Volume – the numbers onside will help to share the load
•    Creativity – from openness comes the ability to ‘think out loud’
•    Synergy – sharing ideas enables each to build on the other enabling more productive outcomes
•    Commitment – through the bonding that comes with trust and honesty
•    Morale – built through all working together in an open environment
•    Motivation – comes from being heard, fundamental in all good workplace relationships
•    Support – because they are open, they ask for help more
•    Drive – when people feel a full part and valued, they contribute more to the bigger goal
•    Understanding – knowing each other well, means there is focus on common expectations
•    Communication – always works better when there is a great relationship

There may be more of these in particular locations like yours and if the relationship is good, you will have a clear route to get to know them better yourself.

Remember, the resulting value of these small outcomes of great relationships is much, much bigger than a simple sum of the parts. Yet whilst we might look for and even actively seek much more, each component needs to be in place to enable the whole to be that bigger benefit.

The base of good interactions between managers and employees has to come from the manager themselves in the behaviors they show.

Taking the time to ensure this is a strong element of your management toolkit is an investment worth making and over time, be assured that little effort will be needed to keep the plates spinning.

Filed under Blog, Building the Future, Developing Your People, Managing Me by Martin

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March 13, 2010

Effective Workplace Relationships – External Influences

There is value in ensuring that the interaction between a manager or supervisor is effective. Both sides have much to gain.

Although this would seem to be a relationship between two individuals, who else might be involved?

When managers work closely with team members, the exciting relationship that builds is value-creating on both sides.

Greater productivity and performance being the most likely outcomes for the manager, whilst career development and a much better working experience for an employee – just two examples for each that can come from working well together.

There are challenges enough for those two to get together productively, with both sides needing to have the intention to succeed in how they interact, as well as being able to work to come closer together to create the right environment.

That said, theirs will not be the only influences that will come to bear, despite this seemingly being a one-to-one relationship. We are all shaped by our whole environment and it’s likely that these ‘external’ influences will need consideration and the working relationship progresses.

So, just who could be implicated in how two people interact, apart from those individuals themselves? Here are some possibilities:-

Family and Friends

This can present some of the most difficult challenges.

In such cases, employees can be influenced into working in certain ways by others who, variously, may not have the full picture; will have had very different work experiences; and ultimately, just be unwilling to go half way to work well with other people, especially managers who are trying hard to make things work better.

Managers need to acknowledge such pressures and ensure that whatever they do to make workplace relationships better, the external influences can be very robust. It’s not to give up on at all, indeed these workplace experiences might be a breath of fresh air to the person they are trying to be creative with. It might take time.

Having a consistent approach with all team members will help, so that those facing this particular issue will be encouraged to overcome other prejudices, to dig in and take the risk of trying on better working relationships with supervisors or managers.

Other Colleagues

When two individuals are working together to build a better working relationship, this can be influenced by the shared perceptions of others in the team.

This is usually caused by fear and other emotions, like jealousy or frustration and more.

Managers need to watch for the reluctance of individuals to get more involved. By ensuring that everyone in the team gets the same treatment, this issue usually resolves itself.

Other Line Managers

Managers are frequently encouraged to work in some bizarre ways by their colleagues, who might have experiences that are set in quite different circumstances and with different people and situations involved.

Managers need to understand that they will create relationships best, when they are being at their most authentic with themselves and not feel obliged to ‘do it their way’.

Being able to stand up and develop their own strategies takes courage and, from time to time, the occasional failure. this is all part of management self-development and is a very worthwhile exercise!

External Business Contacts

There may be times where the impact of other business contacts can affect the way that managers get on with their team.

Sometimes such extraneous influences can be hard to pick up on and adjust in favor of your own activities.

The key here is to be good at creating good working relationships with all of your people, all of the time, so that anyone affected by external influencers can see that the ‘home way’ is best and then they are likely to gradually fall in line.

These are a few of the possibilities – and there may be more. The key element here is to remember that whilst two individuals might wish to create a much more positive working relationship, there will be underlying and sometimes even unconscious thought processes that can take time to overcome.

Great working relationships are hugely valuable, not just to a manager who can get more out of their team, but, when working well, to each single individual who is on the other side of the desk, in the personal reward and development, not to mention exciting and motivating work, that they can experience too.

Filed under Blog, Building the Future, Developing Your People by Martin

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February 21, 2010

Managing Others – 9 Positive Behaviors

When we manage others, they take their lead from us. There is an onus on us therefore, to make sure that the lead we offer has every opportunity for success. And using positive behaviors is a great start…

In the teams we lead, we find that they mimic the way we are. On a bad day, they sense that things aren’t going to plan and, where they can, perhaps they keep out of our way!

Where we show the positive side of ourselves, in the behaviors we demonstrate, they are more likely to be upbeat about it – and then, as a team, we have the opportunity to be much more successful.

Here are some key behaviors you can focus on becoming positive in. These are just the chosen few – there are many more of them – and when you are beginning along this path of positive change, these will give you a great start!

•    Respond instead of React – by taking the time to make a considered response and practicing this aspect of your management style, you are going to be more likely to give a positive response than a negative one, which may come from frustration or exasperation when initially presented with a situation.

•    Show appreciation – it’s easy to notice opportunities to show appreciation when an individual delivers what’s expected of them (or more), so building this into your style is a positive response that your people will love!

•    Remember peoples’ names accurately – whilst this might seem like a small thing, employees can feel like they are ‘just a number’ – especially in big organizations – so when you individualize and personalize them, it’s a big plus.

•    Follow things through – showing that you value people is a massive positive, so by ensuring that you always do what you say you will; follow through with your promises and report back where it’s needed, you will make a difference to their feelings about their work too.

•    Drop criticism – it’s of little value when it isn’t supported by learning, so it’s best avoided. This is a ‘stop doing’ to avoid negativity perhaps rather than a positive change in behavior. Thus it has a positive impact!

•    Speak positively of others – when you even speak negatively about people, even when they aren’t present, it’s surprising just what effect that can have on everyone. By finding positive things to say about people – even when they aren’t present – you will be surprised about how quickly others pick up on this and start doing it too.

•    Encourage – amazingly positive, your personal intervention to encourage and support your people will go a long way to help build their confidence and self-belief.

•    Remind people of what they do well – It’s sometimes difficult to appreciate the gifts we all have, so we need reminding. When you tell your people about the value they bring to the team, it may well be the first time they’ve heard it, so how positive is that!

•    Manage expectations – it’s much more positive to be able to do more than expected and over-deliver than it is to over-promise and not be able to do what’s expected of you, so it’s of great value to keep expectations minimal and then do more, where you can.

Small changes in the way you work with your people can bring huge benefits to their behaviors and attitudes. You have every opportunity to choose the way you are with them and then reap the value it can create.

Filed under Blog, Developing Your People, Management Basics, Managing Me by Martin

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February 17, 2010

Responsibility for Workplace Relationships – Challenging Beliefs

Hidden in the depths of the evolution of the way that organizations are run is a long held belief. Managers are responsible for the way the interactions with their people progress. That may not be the case…

Through the decades of the modern industrial era, managers have, rightly or wrongly, held roles which are seen to be very directive. A role where the manager’s word is the final one, with their people complying.

Over the last two decades, whilst this has started to change as organizations become more democratic, involving more of their people in decision making as well as including them more in developing strategies and opportunities, there is still a long way to go in the real world to see this positioning change.

There are managers out there at the sharp end who are embracing the potential of more and more of their people, but it is still the norm for what the manager says is the rule.

For the enlightened ones and as a consequence of this, managers have assumed the role of relationship builders in many organizations, seeing it as their job to be the creators of workplace relationships with their people. This is certainly an exception to the rule even then, so there is work still to do.

Sometimes, managers see this activity as their job alone and one where they need to spend time, yet are frustrated with the amount of effort they have to make, in what can often be a very one way workload.

Sad to say – even where creation and nourishment of strong and valuable relationships with their team is seen to be a useful activity in itself – not much time is overtly being devoted to this, partly because managers are so busy with all the regular management ‘stuff’ they get on their desks each day.

So, what needs to change?

The opportunities that good working relationships provide are valuable for both sides of the equation.

For managers, getting the best from their people often depends on their capacity for getting on well enough with them to help the employee feel valued, understood and that they have a useful part to play in the team. this helps organizational results targets be met, thus keeping senior management at bay.

For employees, there is much to value when they have a strong bond with their manager.

Used appropriately, regular, positive interactions with a manager can open new career doors, create development opportunities (both through learning through delegated tasks and also being more in the sightline of a manager looking for those ready for the next step), as well as create a friendly environment in which to spend a chunk of their time.

Where both sides of the manager/employee relationship see that there is a good point to fostering their relationships – for mutual benefit – the pressure to make it work is halved, making the possibilities much more likely to come to fruition.

Changing perceptions and beliefs, many of which are long-held and culture-based, will take some time. The outcomes for all being really worth the effort.

Filed under Blog, Developing Your People, Management Basics by Martin

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February 16, 2010

Employee Relationships – What is Responsibility

Responsibility is fast becoming a lost art in the business worlds in which we exist today.

When managers take responsibility for creating valuable relationships with their people, there are many opportunities to be had.

But what is responsibility?

Whilst relationships between individuals requires attention on both sides, with managers and employees there is a drive more from the side most likely to benefit – and that is the management side in terms of the business value, whilst it is also in the interests of employees where there are benefits for them too (such as career progression and skills development, as examples).

It is really worth taking some time to understand what ‘accountability’ and responsibility’ are in this manager/employee context, so that a clear picture can be drawn to show what needs to be done.

There are two defining descriptions that need to be addressed here, ‘accountability’ and ‘responsibility’. Whilst these two words might seem to be very similar, there is a difference when managing employees is concerned.

Accountability is for someone – usually a manager in a business or organization – where ‘the buck stops’. As a manager you are the person ultimately ‘accountable’ for all sorts of required outcomes in your part of the organization.

Responsibility is one level lower, where as managers we delegate the ‘responsibility’ for an action to someone else, enabling them to be the person who delivers that part of an overall ‘accountability’.

We are ‘accountable’ for the delivery of something and we delegate parts of this to others who are ‘responsible’ for the activities they need to take to complete their part of the overall ‘something’.

We, as managers, take on accountabilities that the organization requires us to deliver to provide the returns that they, their stockholders and any other stakeholders want and need to be successful. We, in turn, break down these ‘accountabilities’ and let others in our teams take on ‘responsibilities’ that they can deliver to contribute into the whole.

Being responsible for actions is a big learning curve for your people to experience and sometimes they will need help with that. It can be a daunting prospect. It can also be misunderstood, where they don’t recognize that your expectation of them is real and finite. So they may need a nudge to comprehend what that means, especially to start with.

When we are building relationships, whilst we might be accountable for this overall (not least because it’s in our interest to do so), there are responsibilities that can be attributed to both sides to make the relationships start, continue and where appropriate, end effectively.

Understanding the difference between ‘accountable and ‘responsible’ is the first step for many managers in this position and one that they will need to be clear about at the earliest moment.

Filed under Blog, Building the Future, Developing Your People, Management Basics by Martin

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February 13, 2010

Workplace Relationships – Who Is Responsible For Them?

There are poor workplace relationships. There are good workplace relationships. Sometimes they are even great. But where does the responsibility lie for creating the best environment for the best work to be done…

There is no doubt that there are times when managers have to depend on the best relationships to get the results they want. As a consequence, there is a real need for a manager to take the lead in the way they interact with their people.

Managers who have any sense at all, will know the onus is on them to drive their own actions to set up relationships that work best – for everyone. The desire here must be such that a bonded team forms, generating creative solutions with the energy that trust and mutual co-operation and focus leads to.

By taking control of their own behaviors, good managers set the ball rolling to ensure that they generate the best relationships possible, to create fruitful opportunities for business, organization and team productivity.

If they don’t know how, they have the means in terms of resources and time to go find out what they need to know, to make sure they have the best of relationships with their people.

So that seems to be that then!

Not quite. You see the responsibilities of employees are vital too, because it takes two to make a great one-to-one relationship. Whilst the manager might well be making the effort, members of their team have a responsibility too.

Because there is value in it for them as well, by having great interactions with their boss, to get a workplace where they feel valued, are excited and interested by opportunities and where learning by doing – and taking risks – is encouraged.

Employees have the opportunity to meet – at least half way – any manager or supervisor who creates the environment to get the relationship off to a great start, by mirroring the behaviors they themselves experience. The supervisor or managers leads the way, which the pro-active employee heeds – and responds to accordingly.

Great relationships come from that mutuality of trust, respect, caring, support, encouragement, coaching and more. The shared resources that two sides use to form lasting and valuable relationships, to ensure success has a better than evens chance as the outcome.

The lead may come from the manager or team leader or supervisor and when developing valuable working relationships with an employee, their support and equal responsibility to take full part, is of critical importance too.

Let’s face it, managers need help too, so working with them as they strive to do invest in the right behaviors for their team, will only enhance the returns that everyone receives in the long-term.

Filed under Blog, Building the Future, Developing Your People, Management Basics by Martin

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February 10, 2010

Building Workplace Relationships By Overcoming Prejudices

We need to create effective relationships in our organizations to make sure we get the best from all of our people. Managers will always have the opportunity to interact with their people, yet sometimes, there are times to step back and see what might be getting in the way.

It’s inevitable.

We ‘get on’ well with some people better than others. Those who we seem to create a rapport with easily, are always most likely to be those we turn to when we want some form of interaction.

Our natural characteristics are formed through our lives and are such that we have peculiarities that create our own very personal natures.

When we are living our informal lives (away from the workplace), we acan afford to pick and choose who we spend our time with. Naturally, where we can, we like to enjoy the company we get most pleasure from, so, on that basis, we decide who to be with and when.

In the workplace, it isn’t so easy. Of course we can recruit people who we are more likely to get on well with – those who we have an immediate liking for – and that’s a natural way to be.

When we have people in our teams where we find they are quite different to us in some way or other, or they don’t resonate with us in some way, there is a natural tendency to be more distant with them, because there is less of that natural rapport.

This is all quite logical and can go a long way to explain why there are differences in our behaviors around some people rather than others.

When we manage others and we seek to build workplace relationships, we need to be a bit smarter than this.

Our natural tendencies are all well and good when we socialize outside work, but we need to have everyone on board when we are developing a team that will generate results for us.

It’s important therefore, when we manage and lead others, to have the capacity to stand back and be dispassionate about those we work closely with.

Taking the time to recognize the real value everyone brings to the party is vital – and that means there will be some in the team who you aren’t that similar to. Some whose character is less aligned to you than you are with others.

The natural prejudice you show to gather people around you who you get on well with is understandable and indeed is psychologically designed to protect you from harm. Guided by experiences you’ve had in your life at some time, you push away from some people who have similarities to those with whom you perhaps had a difficult experience.

In work, by acknowledging and working through such internal prejudices (which are often going unnoticed by you), you are likely draw into your team people (and develop those already there) who have much to offer, thus creating a whole new set of resources that you might otherwise have missed out on.

They won’t harm you. They will bring new perspectives into the team which, if you let them, will significantly add value.

By overcoming your personal prejudices and going out of your way to build useful relationships with individuals you might have spent less time with in the past, you are making your team much more effective and that is a vital component on the road to success.

Filed under Blog, Building the Future, Developing Your People, Managing Me by Martin

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February 2, 2010

The Philosophy of Responsibilities in Workplace Relationship Building

Relationship building is a vital core activity of anyone who manages or leads others, yet those being managed also have a responsibility to make the interactions work. So, why is understanding about responsibilities so important?

Understanding the relative responsibilities in relationship building in the workplace is important, so that suitable focus can be attached to each side, working towards consistently successful interactions.

Knowing that each side has a part to play and that this will involve deep consideration (especially where relationships have been strained in the past), helps to frame the mindset that will be important to create.

Responsibilities are not to be taken lightly. They are indeed a responsibility in themselves. Of being in a place where behaviors can create or destroy the outcomes that each side might want as well as appreciating that sometimes these may be different.

Holding responsibility is important, yet sometimes gets stuck behind a number of challenging and conflicting attitudes that can make the decisions about how to approach a relationship somewhat blurred.

For example, an individual may well have set ideas about what they want from their job. This needs to be aligned with what the job entails, the conditions within that job is offered and the rewards, some tangible, some not, that are provided.

A manager, on the other hand needs results for their area of responsibility and that is usually their overriding focus and can, on some occasions blinker the expectations and hopes of their team members.

Without understanding that the responsibility for a mutually beneficial relationship lies on both sides equally, it could be easy merely to push for only the respective needs of each side.

Yet, without taking the responsibility to realize that both sides want their needs met, neither side is likely to win. Indeed it is likely that antagonism and mistrust will take over and the relationship founders, which no-one wants and is quite value-less.

The philosophy of responsibility in relationship building is that it is an important ‘gift’ that each holds and this is to be used in a way that enshrines the values of both sides, whilst acknowledging that one side does not have any greater grip on their own outcomes than the other.

When we take up a responsibility, it is not to be taken lightly. Where this relates to the interactions we have with others, taking responsibility means that we have to know and understand what is important to them, as well as what’s in our own interests too.

Ultimately, the responsibility element of relationship building is a critical element of success, with each side being clear on what the best outcome will be, not just for themselves, but for everyone.

Filed under Blog, Building the Future, Developing Your People, Management Basics by Martin

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January 28, 2010

Workplace Relationships – What Does Responsibility Mean?

Managers and employees have shared responsibilities for ensuring that they have a relationship between them that is strong. Let’s get clear about what this actually means in practice.

In the workplace, everyone interacts with each other. This is how society organizes itself and communicates together at work. These relationships are valuable for the opportunities they create to improve performance of individuals, as well as benefiting them, by creating a more useful and interesting place to work.

Each person in the team has a responsibility and a vested interest in making these relationships work, for their mutual benefit.

When you are a manager, there are steps you might take to rebuild a damaged relationship. Or perhaps it’s vital to start off a whole new team of people and hit the ground running by creating the right environment for working together.

As an employee, you need to have a voice that’s heard in an appropriate setting and also, where you can, show that you too can add value by the contributions you offer.

In practice, ‘responsibility’ is all about doing your bit (and maybe a little more) to oil the wheels of the relationships you have with all of your colleagues, at whatever level of hierarchy they might be, such that everyone is a winner.

This is not a time to take sides, so this is vital for everyone who shows up each morning to do their bit. Whether you are one of the senior management team or newly recruited this week, it doesn’t matter.

There are five critical activities that anyone creating a workplace relationship needs to be aware of – and be prepared to put into practice.

1. Show Commitment

By being onside and decided to make the difference, whatever the history, you are starting a process to build relationships, even if it means you have to rethink your position as well a bit.

2. Let Go Of The Past

Relationship building can be made much more difficult by ‘history’. This is a time to lead from the front, whichever position you are coming from and bury your own hatchets, ready for progress.

3. Be Interested in Others

You’ll build relationships faster if you dump talking all about yourself and make sure you ask questions that will help you get to know people better. Yet, this isn’t actually the point. It’s that you are showing that you are interested that counts.

4. Take a Breath

Leaving space for others to say their piece is a vital part of building relationships with anyone, remembering that when you are prepared to listen, you will stand out in a crowd, where others simply do not do this, making you all the more attractive for the ongoing relationship.

5. Create Trust

Following through with what you say you will do; being as open and honest as possible; giving and accepting feedback, as well as showing confidentiality and discretion, are all tiny and still vital tactics to adopt when building new and maintaining existing relationships.

These are the actions of all sides of the responsibility calculation where relationships are created or lost.

Everyone has a part to play and everyone is just as equally a contributor to the overall challenge, for which the outcome is always going to be of great value.

Filed under Blog, Developing Your People, Management Basics, Managing Me by Martin

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