building relationships

January 17, 2010

It’s Not Them, It’s You

Author: Mary Jo Asmus

You’re leading a monthly meeting. You’ve asked your team members to provide their input on a topic. Unlike your teenager who at least shrugs his shoulders (or says “I don’t know”) when you ask for his opinion, you get silent stares from your team. What could be going on?

Are your team members incompetent? Do they even know enough about the subject to speak up? Don’t they know that their input is important? Actually, you may need to look to yourself and your behavior as the cause.

The behaviors you exhibit may be shutting your team down. Luckily, these behaviors can be fixed over time, increasing the likelihood that you will get the input you seek. Let’s explore the behaviors that may be preventing your team from speaking up:

You are not listening
Are you doing all the talking? Are you shutting people down or cutting them off?

You have ignored your team’s input
Do you have a history of asking for input and then doing whatever you think is right anyway?

You are asking the wrong kind of questions
Are your questions the kind that don’t foster discussion (yes/no questions for example)?  Are the questions you are asking ones that you already know the answers to?

You supply the answers to the questions
Do you ask the question and then supply your own answers? Are you allowing the silence necessary for your team to consider their answer (yes, silence can be a good thing in this case)?

You shoot the messenger
Do you respond with your opinion (often negative) to the responses you’ve received? Do you feel the need to judge every answer?

Are you showing impatience or temper?
Does your body language indicate that you are not getting the kind of answers you want? Are you rolling your eyes or sighing when a team member responds to a question? Worse yet, are you showing signs of anger or exhibiting outbursts?

Is it possible that any of these behaviors apply to you? Ask someone you trust to observe you and provide some feedback. If you find that you are exhibiting any of the behaviors above, you need to change your behavior.

You’ve lost respect – for yourself and for others – and are on a downward spiral. It’s recoverable. More about how to recover in the next post.

© Mary Jo Asmus is a a former executive in a Fortune 100 company, who now owns and operates a leadership solutions firm called Aspire Collaborative Services at http://www.aspire-cs.com

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

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January 6, 2010

Identifying Key Workplace Relationships

There are many different relationships that managers forge in the workplace. Whilst some may seem to be much more important than others, in many ways, every single one is just as important as another…

Managing is a people thing. To get the best from every one of your relationships will require efforts to ensure that everyone with whom you engage is ‘turned on’ to you, in whatever enterprise you are all engaged in.

Employees

Whilst these are not the only workplace relationships a manager will be engaged in, they are likely to be the most important, encouraging the environment such that members of the team are focused on getting the job done.

The best managers adopt a consistent strategy for building individual relationships – whether they be with their team members or other relationships they have that impinge on the success – or otherwise – that the team seeks.

This consistency shows that the manager’s behaviors are authentic and really meant, thus providing their people with a sense of trust because the realize that ‘what-you-see-is-what-you-get’ is who their manager is.

With individual team members, there will be a number of different types of interaction from instruction, to delegation; from coaching to managing performance; from discipline to career discussions and more.

When there is a consistency of relationship approach that works well for both sides, the trust created is vital, meaning that a strong bond is already in place to ensure that the best outcomes are achieved with both sides on the same side.

There are other relationships that matter.

Customers

It’s a debatable point who is more important, the customer or employee. So let’s suffice to say that both are vital. Interactions and relationship building with customers (or however they are defined in your organization) is a critical step in any successful activity, however large or small.

The time taken to build positive and constructive relationships with each and every valuable customer, is always worthwhile.

In this case, a manager cannot be everywhere at all times, so they have to work even harder to ensure that they have people in their team who will spread their message in all interactions with customers, building the ongoing relationships which will bear fruit in the future – as well as today.

Line Managers and Colleagues

Managers most often have their own manager,s as well as colleagues and a peer group as well. Whilst time spent here might seem less valuable than with customers and their own employees, there is always value in being your best with others who might prove useful in the future.

Although this might seem to be an investment of time that could be spared, the overall concept of workplace relationships is one of consistency, where the behavior of a manager is the same, whoever the interaction is with.

By showing this trait throughout all interactions, the relationships that are built will create added value as employees recognize and replicate those great behaviors themselves.

And the colleagues, line managers and others that fit this category are always worth investing in!

Suppliers

In recent times, the bullying tactics of large organizations with their suppliers, where they are squeezed on price to create the best margins for the buyer, have become seen to be both impractical, immoral and ultimately unsuccessful.

By building win-win relationships with suppliers where they can also be successful, the buyer develops a long-term strategy for ongoing success, not a short-term gain that is unsustainable. Organizations are recognizing that they need to provide for success in the future, rather than a one-time gain and lose ongoing business.

Other Stakeholders

Most organizations have other stakeholders who need to be nurtured for ongoing success. Often these may be hidden or even ignored, where a manager doesn’t see the immediate value. Getting clear on who are stakeholders in any business is critical or the ‘unknowns’ start to grow, which is much less controllable.

Building effective relationships with all stakeholders is important as a minimum and then to pick and choose who is really worth extra cultivation, will be a choice made in relation to what’s needed at the time. The initial relationships that are created are never lost and are always of value. Truth is, you just never know, so it’s best to be ahead of the game – just in case!

The key element to finding, developing and then cultivating relationships is a consistent behavioral approach that is seen to be authentic, because it is.

This can be a challenge to some managers who find relationship building less natural than others and still, it really is worth the effort.

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

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January 4, 2010

Workplace Relationship Building Is Vital

Small things matter. Tiny nuances in the way we interact with people can shift the balance between success and failure. So when we manage people, we have to be aware of the impact our behaviors can – and do – have.

As managers, whether we look after two part-time helpers in our small business, or lead a huge team, perhaps even remotely, we depend on others for success.

Rarely, in most business situations, be they commercial or service driven, public, private or not-for-profit, can a manager do it alone. For free standing entrepreneurs, there may be a few times where they think they can cope alone (though this is actually even rarer), because they work in isolation.

Managers need their people onside to work in the most productive of ways.

And the bottom line is that, whether it be consciously or unconsciously, people are significantly influenced in their capacity to deliver, by the way they interpret their interactions with a line manager.

They say that 65% of people leave their job because of the way their immediate line manager interacts with them, so any manager worth their salt will themselves take note of this and work hard to make the best of the relationships they have with their employees.

Now, some managers have a natural capability to get on well with their people. They create a relationship that is fruitful, seemingly almost without trying. They are ‘people’ people, with a natural flair for building relationships.

For others, it’s much more challenging, where it can often be the case that they don’t know what they are doing wrong and as a consequence, find it hard to work out what they need to change to get it right.

In these cases, with closer investigation, it’s easy to find disillusioned staff who find their manager unapproachable and even unreasonable.

Neither side knows why, yet the manager is the one who suffers the most in terms of performance, whilst the employees suffer most emotionally, affecting not just their workplace experience, but their bigger life too.

Though some people who lead teams will have a more natural talent to create relationships, there are simple tactics that others can learn, practice and adopt that will change their lives – and those of their people too – creating much more effective management, as well as significantly improving business performance as well.

Even simple skills like being better listeners (as described so eloquently in ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ that great classic by Dale Carnegie) make huge differences.

Without effective relationships with their team members, managers will struggle, yet where they make the effort to build relationships with employees, there will be rich rewards indeed, for everyone.

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

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January 2, 2010

Effective Business Relationships – What Are They?

In any workplace, the interactions between those involved are vital for successful performance. There is a fine line between those interactions working effectively and the strength of individuals’ characters creating challenges.

Great managers know what makes business relationships work – and they work at them.

Defining and understanding effective relationships is the place to start. By having a clear picture of what makes up a good relationship in the workplace, it’s much easier to set out your stall to make it happen.

As with most definitions, clarity of what works best will often indicate the components that need to be in place to make a success of it, so here goes with some thoughts of how effective business relationships stand out:-

1. Sustainable Results Happen

The most important aspect of any management effort is that the outcomes, which are defined by the over-arching organization – however large or small – are achieved. By the efforts of great managers, the relationships they build set success in motion, through their ability to generate exceptional performance from everyone in their team.

A manager’s people skills and capabilities create long-term sustainable results from relationships that are valuable to both sides.

2. Everyone’s a Winner

Short-term gain may come about from being overly-demanding, unfair or even a bully. That’s not much of a relationship, so the measure of success is that investment made in the relationships built will be lasting, where all stakeholders get a good deal.

Employees who benefit from good relationships with their boss will be motivated to stay longer, be sick less often (really!) and deliver more than when a relationship is one-sided and short-term.

3. Learning Happens

In great workplace relationships, there is an understanding and trust between those involved, such that when things don’t quite go to plan, that’s OK!

The key here is that a relationship that’s developed over time and is felt to be two-way, enables managers to support and help their people when outcomes don’t achieve expectations.

By working to use the experience as an opportunity to learn, the relationship, far from being soured by the turn of events, is strong enough to grow together even more.

4. Behaviors Go Viral

Managers have a vital role to play in creating the relationships with each of their people.

This can even mean that where teams are large, effective managers are tuned in to make the time to build effective relationships with every one of their team by being interested in them as individuals.

By modeling the relationship building behaviors to their people, it doesn’t take long before the team themselves are infused with this ‘way of working’.

The manager sets the ball rolling and the people in the team replicate their behaviors outwards.

5. Business Culture Grows

As everyone gets involved, the culture evolves.

New people entering the team simply work much more closely and effectively, because that’s ‘the way we do things around here’.

The way you have worked to create a cohesive team through the relationships you have fostered, will be a legacy that will last for years, as those around you ‘fly the same flag’ as well.

6. There’s Fun!

Where relationships with colleagues work well, there is an openness and energy that provides much value in the business returns that are achieved.

Yet there’s more.

The workplace becomes not just the place that folks come to earn their crust, it becomes a place they enjoy and have fun together, enthused with the knowledge that this is a great place to be and not ‘just another job’.

The relationships that you, as their manager, are able to create with your people, are a testament to the efforts you make in getting on well with them.

The overall outcome of creating great relationships with those upon whom you depend (make no mistake about it!), for the success of your enterprise, are the results you achieve and, perhaps even more valuable, the amazing ethic that your people are fortunate enough to share in the workplace culture they experience.

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

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November 19, 2008

“When we slow down, we go faster” – Japanese saying

“When we slow down, we go faster”
Japanese saying

How can this be?

Logic would suggest that to go faster, we need, well, to go faster.

Yet in life; in work; more pace so often leads to worse performance. Results that are way beneath our expectations and seemingly failing to reward the extreme effort we have put in.

This is partly because as we add pace and complexity, we hit the sludge of our own drag coefficient. We bog ourselves down by a lack of focus and simplicity that always brings steady results. We slow down trying to do too much and that means we are trying to do it all faster.

By trying to do so much and so quickly, we fail to take the care to think, to consider and to plan carefully the very best outcomes that will be achieved if we give ourselves a bit of space.

Like the tortoise and the hare, a steady focus and progression is much more likely to give a consistent outcome, than uncontrolled pace and the distraction that follows.

Some times we prefer to be chaotic and survive it, because, frankly, it makes us feel that we are doing more. That’s driven by an internal need to feel that we are really working hard!

Slower pace feels like we are coasting and that can feel uncomfortable in many cultures.

If you ever try sticking to the speed limit instead of speeding to your destination far too quickly, you will benefit from experiencing more and seeing much more as you pass by.

In the workplace, less haste means that you have the time to notice what’s going on around you much more. That can present great rewards where it comes to building relationships with your people and appreciating what is being done.

It can help to influence your own style, because you made the space to notice more.

Where you can, do less; take your time and focus clearly on less goals. Slowing down, to go faster, has proven itself over the ages.

A Management Snippet, courtesy of the Super Successful Manager! membership program.

Filed under Great Quotations, Managing Me by Martin

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November 10, 2008

It’s All About Perspective (and Change, and Listening, and…)

So, America has elected a new president and it seems, a very different one at that.

Perhaps because of his ‘difference’, the expectations on President-Elect Obama are high indeed.

It’s usually true that as the ‘new manager’ (well, that’s what being a president is really!), there is a belief that things will change. Of course when you newly arrive, then that’s an excellent time to start.

The risk, when you can clear the decks with new ideas, standards and even people, is that you can alienate those around you whose support and help you need as you aim for progress.

For Obama, this is the American people. For you, it’s the team of employees you need to work with, as you make the changes.

When you are new to a position, it can be easier to make the changes that are vital. When you are incumbent already, you need to take a freash look at your weaknesses and blind spots from time to time.

If you have created good, open and collaborative relationships with your people, you can seek their guidance for those areas where you may be less than effective enough.

Taking time to get to know your people well will work well for you, as it will (dare I say it!), for President Obama.

Filed under Building the Future by Martin

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