workplace 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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March 22, 2010

Starting Small In Taking Responsibility To Build Relationships

Creating excellent workplace relationships is a valuable exercise at any time. The responsibility for developing these, belongs to everyone in the team.

Getting this going needs to start somewhere…

Once we get clear in our minds that there is a significant value in having effective business relationships with our people – and for them with us – it’s vital to understand that the responsibility doesn’t fall simply on someone else.

Managers and their employees share that responsibility, so that everyone benefits from the value that workplace relationships – at their best, of course – provide for all.

After time being unaware that there is work to do, the simple act of understanding that each one has some level of responsibility can be daunting. And, when this happens, it’s possible that those first tiny steps to take that challenge on, becomes less attractive.

So, where to start?

When we realize that we all have to develop tactics to make the best of those we work with, the most important activity is simply recognizing that up to now, perhaps we might not have done as much as we could.

The simple act of noticing that we might have been more proactive; more receptive or even better, taken a look at what we are and aren’t doing, is a great first step to take.

Once that awareness have become apparent, next up is starting to acknowledge that there are steps we can take that will make the start in bring us closer to our people.

Now, whilst everyone has some responsibility for the whole relationship building activity, as a manager, it might well be useful to ensure that you take the lead, at least at first, by acknowledging and taking steps to appreciate that you have a responsibility to get things moving – at least a little.

As you notice where you might have stopped seeing that some of the responsibility for creating valuable relationships lies with you, you will start to see some of the opportunities for you.

These will be small at first, because relationships can only be started at first, then, as they gain momentum, you will find that more and more opportunities come to your attention.

It’s almost as if that small first step is the catalyst. Acknowledging that it is yours to do, at last in part will also trigger others to see the ffort you are making, and then do a little more themselves, every day.

You aren’t going to get everyone on board at first – you are going to be able to show them that you have seen the way forward and are grasping the opportunity.

Relationships only start when those involved start to recognize that they have work to do to make the best of these interactions.

By starting small to each take a shared responsibility, you each have every chance that this will grow – and then everyone will be the beneficiary.

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

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March 19, 2010

Building Workplace Relationships – Being the Model

The value of excellent workplace relationships cannot be over-estimated.

Leveraging the interactions between individuals, be they manager to employee or visa-versa is incredible, so taking responsibility for this has to be progressed by someone.

When a manager recognizes that there is work to do on taking up the responsibility for making better use of workplace relationships, that’s a great start.

Simply noticing that the way they interact with their people is not as productive as it might be, is a huge step, because that awareness so often leads to an understanding of the situations they face.

With awareness comes a decision. Whilst the responsibility for moving relationships up to a new level does not entirely fall on a manager or supervisor, there is an opportunity for them to make the first step.

Recognizing that relationships are not working as positively as they might is one thing, the next step is the logical progression to appreciating that a responsibility for moving them forward is the first step.

Now, it’s possible that everyone on the team understands that there is more to come, but the management focus needs to be on leading from the front and grasping personally the responsibility for improving relations.

Sometimes, there can be hurdles to overcome. Past history, personal preferences and, yes, prejudices can get in the way. There can even be a bit of ‘Why should I?’ in the pot as well.

Managers need to see past this, because the rewards are clear. By taking the responsibility for moving forward relationships that aren’t working to their best, managers start to model for their people a broadening of attitudes that they will replicate.

When there’s a brick wall, someone needs to be prepared to take the first swing at it, because until someone does, there will be no progress. Once a chink of light is seem, others will become much more able to get involved themselves.

Where managers show that they will take responsibility themselves to improve the working environment by engaging better with their people, the relationships will all start to grow, with gathering pace, so that the value from everyone getting on better, with trust, support and encouragement, begins to be realized.

As you people notice those small changes, they too will embrace the needs for change. they will notice how improved relationships begin to make a positive contribution to their lives as well. They will begin to see that they have some responsibilities in this area themselves.

Where you take responsibility for the first steps and show them they way, your personal modeling at this stage will be the catalyst for significant shifts for each one of your team as well.

Filed under Blog, Building the Future, Developing Your People, 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 8, 2010

Win-Win Management – Finding Small Gains To Start

As we set out to build relationships with our people, it’s vital that there is every opportunity to make progress.

And sometimes, you can be in the driving seat to make that happen.

Managers need the support of their people to build teams that will have positive impacts on the running of the business – and the outcomes that are necessary.

To make the most of this, good managers create valuable one-to-one relationships with as many employees as they can, such that rapport builds and creates win-win opportunities, where both sides get positive benefits from the interactions.

Where there is repair work to do – as new managers often find when they take on an existing team – perhaps where the previous manager has underperformed, the progress to rebuild trust can take a little time.

Employees who have suffered consequences of poor management relationships will by pretty shy when it comes down to exposing themselves to more painful experiences in the future.

So, this is when the manager really starts to earn their crust. Their efforts at this time will really need to demonstrate a changed workplace environment for the better, through the immaculate way they interact with their people.

There are many ways to rebuild relationships. There are ways to start them off too, but the key impact when things haven’t gone so well in the past is the white flag of peace to offer. Sometimes this can be enough for those forgiving types in your team.

Others will be less easy to turn around. They may be scarred more badly and will need real evidence of goodwill on your part, to accelerate the healing that will need to take place.

Managers can position themselves to make upfront gestures towards their people to more rapidly progress their collaborative input. Small actions to show their willingness to move relationships forwards are hugely valuable.

Be it a small gesture of thanks; an idea shared to help a learning need; simple trust building activities; remembering the name of an employee’s child; recognizing when they need to listen much more than speak.

Taking the first step to enhance a relationship with small gains for your people will quickly start the ball of a bond rolling. Once that happens, there are short-, medium- as well as long-terms gains to be enjoyed, on both sides.

The most interesting aspect of this is that although a manager is offering small gains to their people as a constructive activity to develop the relationship between them, make no doubt about it, this investment is one that will pay off over time for them too.

The key to building effective relationships is that both sides see benefits for themselves, whilst – and this is significant – allowing the outcomes to make the business more effective, efficient and organizationally valuable too.

So there are winners all the way round, just from a manager being prepared to stick their neck out and offer upfront value to a maligned bunch of employees.

And changing their views of the possibilities that can come from good management forever.

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

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March 5, 2010

Employee And Management Relationships – 5 Ways To ‘Win-Win’

Getting the best from workplace relationships is one of the most significant goals for managers.

The truth is, there must be outcomes for both sides that work effectively – and they come in different shapes and sizes.

For workplace relationships to be effective, there has to be a benefit that both sides achieve, or the interaction is always going to be an uphill challenge, with neither side ultimately fully satisfied.

Indeed there is no overall value when one side deems themselves to be the ‘winner’ and the other side goes away empty handed.

In the one-to-one relationships we have with every one of our people, it’s vital to ensure that you as manager achieve the business outcomes you need to deliver.

On the other hand, the individual on the other side of the desk, must go some way to having their needs met too. Often these are needs which are even more valuable than simply their salary check at the end of the month.

In truth, they need more again to be fully motivated and ‘turned on’ to the relationship that you have between you.

The Win-Win Scenario can sound a bit like a trade-off for a manager. One where there might be a hint of ‘giving it away’.

To balance this view a little, let’s have a look at five situations where a manager might feel like they are losing out by giving their employee more than they might wish – and then see the positives that can accrue from that.

1. ‘I need some time’ – by offering some time to sit with, listen and support/coach your employee, you are building the relationship, developing trust and encouraging them to take ownership of their own evolution in their job.

This does NOT mean you are responsible for their ‘next steps’ – you are careful to pass those back to them – you DO have a role in facilitating their choices.

2. ‘I need your help’
– could precipitate a groan or two. Yet this is a perfect opportunity to show that you aren’t a softie, just prepared to suffer with them. Asking for help is just that, requiring a gentle nudge along the way to get them moving.

This is great for clarifying your role as a support for their chosen actions, as well as providing the opportunity for them to self-enable.

3. ‘I need you to understand’
– sounds like trouble? Maybe. In fact when you are approached to understand your people better, this is a great moment to savor. It shows that you are approachable and it shows a willingness on the part of your colleague to build a better bridge in the relationship between you.

Of course, it is vital that you pay full attention and take on board what is said, willingly seeking to understand what they want to get across.

4. ‘Please listen to me’ – means that they need you to appreciate them. It is about them sharing with you that they feel unheard, so it’s a warning sign. The important thing here is that they are prepared to ask, so the relationship is not at rock bottom.

There is a willingness to partner with you – and that’s a positive sign for the future.

5. ‘I’m bored with working here’ – isn’t that great! If and when you ever hear this, it can be music to your ears, because it shows that there is a desire NOT to be bored.

When you are approached in this way, your ‘win’ is that you have potential there that is not being fulfilled, so there are options.

This is not a Lose/Win at all, because once you switch them on, their value will soar, providing significantly better performance for you and your progress towards your goals too.

Rarely, where there is a relationship to unfold, will there be Win/Lose or Lose/Win experiences for managers who are prepared to grasp the opportunities that jump out at them.

The key is to ensure that you are open to the possibilities that make each and every interaction a ‘Win-Win’, because it is available to you, if you want to make the effort to take it.

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

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March 2, 2010

Management Tactics – No Winners With Win/Lose Or Lose/Win

In every relationship we have, we need to be focused enough to ensure that there is a balance between both sides.

When there is not, that’s when the trouble begins. The workplace is definitely no exception.

The relationships that we make as managers with our people are the invaluable partnerships that enable us to deliver much more than we could alone.

The teams of individuals we bring together synergize to create results that are far more than the sum of the parts. When we manager others, it’s our role to do this.

The relationships we form to drive a successful team cannot be at group level. For the people in the team this is not enough. They need us to be prepared to engage in personal relationships with them, one-to-one, from time to time.

Whilst we can impact on the team as a whole for the decisions that we make and even impose on them, the effects are never at team level, they are always felt inside, by each and every one of those involved.

So, we have to make effective relationships with each person we manage and, there’s more, we have to ensure that the outcomes meet the needs on both side of that one-on-one partnership too.

If we seem to succeed and they feel let down (the win-lose), they will be less committed, because their needs are not being met. If this goes on for a time, they will feel used and that you are insincere in your words that encourage a close relationship. Trust starts to dissipate and the relationship will break down.

On the other hand, where you meet the needs of the person sitting opposite you and fail to achieve the goals you need to succeed, (the lose-win), the balance tips the other way and the relationship founders because you are not achieving the results that you are measured on.

With win-win, both sides get their very personally driven needs and goals met. The business thrives from successful results achieved and the individuals thrive as well, because their needs are understood and activities aligning them with the business requirements becomes much more effectively delivered too.

Indeed, if the only way you can work is where one side loses, it’s probably best that each side agrees that it isn’t working out and both sides walk away. Truly win-lose and lose-win are, in effect a win for neither side at all, because of the deeper consequences that will affect all.

Manager ‘Wins’

Let’s say a manager gives way a lot on meeting the needs of their team members. He is lax on discipline because the employees want ‘freedom to express themselves’ and gives it away.

This might result, if allowed to impact on deadlines for example, that sales quotas aren’t achieved. The manager could lose their job and individuals get a much worse deal from their new manager.

A classic example of Lose/Win, except in the bigger picture, it isn’t.

Employee ‘Wins’

The alternate view, might be where a manager rarely spends one-on-one time with his people, citing that his schedule is far too tight with the results he has to achieve.

Employees become less committed and the better ones find a new job with a manager much better suited to understanding their own, very individual, needs.

The first manager finds he struggles to achieve the results that the business needs and is challenged on his own performance (and has much less effective staff left behind to help recover).

A great example of a Win/Lose, but it isn’t even that at all.

The challenge for managers and employees is to acknowledge that the other side has to win as well, because a side that is losing is much more likely to have a significantly bigger impact all round.

Filed under Blog by Martin

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February 28, 2010

Seeking Win-Win – The Relationship Buy In

The core of all business relationships is parity. They are about the negotiation between an employer for output, in exchange for reward, the basis of which is usually a financial transaction.

So this is a fair deal then.

The best relationships serve everyone well. The term win-win comes from the need to ensure that both sides are served adequately from the interactions they have together, such that there is an appropriate return for all.

And a return that is seen to be for the benefit of all too.

There are challenges in trying to secure relationships that balance outcomes that are felt fair on every side. When we manage others we usually find that – as managers – our financial rewards and benefits are greater, so when we want interactions that are effective, we need to do the best by our people as well.

In fact, to get past the traditional differences between managers and employees, we have to be doubly sure that we look towards meeting their needs as far as we can – or better.

Win-win is not, you see, measured on financial reward alone, even though it is often the headline. That said, there clearly needs to be a sense of reality to ensure that people are appropriately rewarded, of course.

Managers can make a huge difference to the relationships they have with employees, to create benefits other than simple material reward.

Good managers acknowledge this and make savvy interactions that count in their favor. By making the time to enhance the workplace experience for all their people, there is much to offer when the possibilities are carefully considered and a little time invested.

By taking the time to be aware of (and always acknowledge) contribution; to develop and coach; to provide career opportunities and to simply provide time for people, as well as the regular interplay that goes on in typical informal conversation-making, managers have all the cards in their hands to make the relationships work so that everyone is a winner.

Take care to note, however, that the onus is on the manager to make the running when it comes to relationship-building, because many employees find it difficult to be confident enough with managers to be equal in the relationship to start with, so they need your help.

With focus and consideration, together with practice and feedback, any manager has a hundred ways to start off good relationships, so there will always be a key to open up an understanding with any and everyone in your team. Sometimes it will take a while to find it, so perseverance will be needed.

Once you get the buy-in with your people – one-by-one – there will be huge benefits for everyone, ensuring that win-wins, through the interactions you have with each of your team members, is the full fruition of the efforts made – on both sides.

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

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February 25, 2010

Refining Employee Relationships – Getting To The Bottom Line

When we are managers, supervisors and leaders, we build workplace relationships – and we do it for a reason. We want to achieve successes and we need to do this through our people.

This is the bottom line for the interactions we take our part in.

The purpose of relationship building in the workplace is pretty simple really. There is value for all sides of the equation and within that, it’s important to acknowledge that there is a bottom line.

As employees; indeed as business owners, managers and team leaders, we are all in it for something, because the most of us need the work we do.

When we attend work, we do so for some pretty basic reasons. We want shelter to keep us from the elements. We want to be fed and kept healthy. In modern societies we are very fortunate that these are pretty much covered off for most of us.

So we need more. The basics – the core rewards that work provides us with – are sufficient to provide the minimum we need. If that was all we went to work for, well, we that’s pretty much sorted.

The more we need is the cerebral value that work provides for us. The stimulation of the work we do provides a healthiness that is not measured by outward disease. Our mental well-being is provided for by finding stimulating challenges that we enjoy and get personal satisfaction from.

Work is not about material reward alone.

When we manage others, we take that on as a stimulating challenge that gets our juices flowing, so we too are satisfied from the fulfillment that we get from the achievements we make.

Both sides achieving successes in their own personal challenges, are leveraged by organizations to ensure that results from the whole, go to meet and exceed the results that need to drop out for the financial bottom line.

If managers and their employees have personal goals they want to achieve and these are aligned with the needs of the bigger organization, then we are all in business pulling together.

The glue that binds us is the way we communicate together. And we communicate most effectively by having close working relationships that enable us to make the best outcomes possible, where everyone is a winner.

That bottom line for the relationships we build is the pleasure – the joy even – we get from achieving what we want from the work we do.

It isn’t just about financial reward. It isn’t about getting a company car that’s a bit bigger. It’s not about the pension pot we build.

Relationships enable us to work together towards a common goal. The purpose of the relationships we co-create, is the bottom line for all of us, which is very personal, yet always contributes to the outcome our employers expect of us too.

So we are all winners together.

Filed under Blog, Developing Your People, Focus on Results, Management Basics 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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