employee relationships

April 13, 2010

Sharing Responsibilities in Building Workplace Relationships

Over time, relationships between managers and employees have not always been at their best.

The way forward for both sides to be satisfied in their work experience and results, is to park this history and move on. It’s all about shared responsibility.

To get the best from employees, managers need to make sure that they create an environment where their people can be of their best at all times (OK, maybe with the occasional hiccup!). This involves both sides in trusting each other to look out for each other, where they can.

Building successful workplace relationships in of value to everyone in any of the regular interactions they have together. ‘Not getting on’ is simply ‘Not good enough’ any more.

To have an effective relationship, there has to be value created for both sides, so they have a return on the time and effort they invest together.

Managers (supervisors; team leaders; CEOs; whatever) of this world want results that will improve their standing and support the development of the organization – however small or large it is. Then they are safer in their role and even have the opportunity to progress.

Employees, who up to now have been sitting firmly on the other side of the desk, want survival for their job in this uncertain world in which we live and also want fulfilment, development, excitement, challenge and success (and more!) themselves too!

Both sides need each other to understand how they can help each other achieve their goals, so the shared responsibility to get on with each other well is part of the deal.

Of course, where existing ‘rivalries’ are currently in place, bringing together extreme positions is always going to be the most challenging, of course – and it can be done. There is no magic formula here and only by gently building trust through good communication skills together, will relationships start to get better.

Of course employees might expect the driver of better relationships to be their line manager. After all, they probably feel most ‘done to’ by the organization, the most accessible lead of which is their immediate boss. Of course any capable manager would already understand their obligations in this area and be taking action themselves.

There’s more to it than that.

Employees who are prepared to hold out that flag of truce are themselves taking up the responsibility, which ultimately (and hopefully) will lead to better work experiences for themselves and their colleagues as well.

Managers, who are worth their salt here, will do well to observe the significant effort being made by one or more of their team, reflect upon it and acknowledge their ‘head above the parapet’ attitude, by meeting them at least half way in their own response to the initiative.

It’s unacceptable these days, to cast blame for poor relationships on ‘the other side’. What can, and must happen, for the benefit of all, is that everyone who wants the best environment to work in, makes the effort and shares responsibility for the relationships they have with each other, whatever past experiences might imply.

All parties must share the responsibility for creating worthwhile workplace relationships and once this opportunity is recognized, there is the potential for rapidly accessing benefits for everyone, in the goals and experiences they each seek.

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

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April 9, 2010

Why Asking For Help Works For Managers

Management can be a tricky role to play. Not only is the work challenging, but sometimes it’s hard to find the help you need.

Yet there are people all around.

The simple act of asking you team for help can be a difficult step for many managers, because it can seem to be that they are not that tough, irreplaceable and fail-proof character they feel they ought to be.

Whilst that might take a little time to overcome, there might be more value in taking the first tentative steps than might seem at first obvious, so it’s a path worth pursuing.

By saying ‘I need your help’, managers open up a whole new ball game, which can have profound effects for those within whom they place this trust.

There are four reasons this works well for managers, not to say their people, who get their share in some positives too…

1. Emotional – the words ‘need’ and ‘help’ dig deep within people, such that they find it hard to refuse. Providing help to someone who needs it can be as compelling as someone who is sick and requires support.

2. Valued – you are asking them for help with something that they feel you believe they can achieve for you, so they feel useful. That is a hugely valuing sense they get of personal validation.

3. Engaged – the help you are asking them for, gets them involved in something that the ‘manager’ has specially asked for help in. Does that focus attention or what?

4. Personal – it’s a one-to-one appeal you are making to some one person (though this can be asked of a whole team too, it’s effective in a different way). This is almost a ‘secret’ pact between you, which has a huge power.

Using this tactic is a valuable tool to have available to you. You can use it in the following circumstances when you choose to:-

  • You can use it to really create space for yourself as others help you.
  • You can use it as a tactic to build someone’s confidence.
  • You can also use it when you think that a stretch and challenge will be a valuable development exercise for someone on your team.
  • You can use it when it will help you build, strengthen and enhance a relationship for you.
  • You can use it when maybe you didn’t even need to, though you have to be careful that to them, the request is fully authentic and necessary for you.

The value of asking for help cannot be overestimated as long as you are able to get out of your own way in achieving it.

(c) 2010 Martin Haworth. This is a short excerpt from one of 52 lessons in management development at Super Successful Manager!, an easy to use, step-by-step weekly development program for managers of EVERY skill level. Find out more at http://www.SuperSuccessfulManager.com.

Filed under Blog, Developing Your People, Management Basics, 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 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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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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