In my experience, over performance in business can’t happen consistently without building powerful relationships. Similarly, if you look at underperformance in your team, you will often find that it is the lack of powerful relationships or broken relationships that are the cause.
There is no quick fix….sorry. BUT, if you invest time, honesty, passion and energy into relationships, you will gradually see a shift, and with perseverance you can achieve great things.
Below, I’ve outlined 10 ways for building powerful relationships:
1. Be interested in others….genuinely
Dale Carnegie (How to win friends and influence people) says:
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
Invest time in getting to know your peers and your colleagues. WARNING – If you can’t do this genuinely – DON’T DO IT – you’ll be found out very quickly and will have the reverse effect.
2. Listen generously
Generous listening requires a commitment to learn about the person you want to build a powerful relationship with. In order to effectively practice generous listening, you must first be aware of your normal listening patterns. It is not all that easy to pay attention. Humans just aren’t wired that way. We get distracted. We are wired with connections – anything we hear can remind us of some other connection – and then we are distracted. So, you must be sensitive to your place of mind, and monitor and re-focus continuously. You must consciously choose to suspend your judgements, opinions and history with the person speaking. To do this, try listening with your whole body. Use all of your senses to listen, connect and be open to what the other person is communicating. You will be surprised at what you discover, but it does take practice.
3. Commit to a person’s success
Once you have made the decision to build a powerful relationship with someone, you should ask yourself the question – Do I want to commit to the success of this person? That’s a big ask, if you truly commit. But, if the answer is yes, you will find yourself interacting differently with that person, asking different questions of them and opening up new possibilities with and for that person. In business, especially in larger businesses, it is very easy just to look after number one and point the finger elsewhere when things go wrong. If you are committed to a person’s success, you won’t point fingers – you’ll talk, you’ll coach, you’ll support and get to a resolution. It can be very very powerful, with practice.
4. Try to understand what makes others tick
Everyone has different motivations and passions in life, and most people don’t leave their personal lives at the door when they come into their place of work. Spend time with your people to understand what motivates them and what their values, ways of working and ambitions are. By gaining an understanding of these it may help you formulate a new way of working that helps you both get the most from your relationship. This is the informal and best way, in my view, to get the best out of people. There are plenty of management tools out there concerning personality types that may supplement this – Myers Briggs, DISC Strategy being the better ones in my experience.
5. 121’s – It’s really important to invest time in your relationships One on One
Whether the people you are trying build powerful relationships with work for you or not, 121’s are an essential time for you to invest in your relationships. Ideally take time out of your diary for at least once per month if not every two weeks to work on your powerful relationship. If you can do these away from the office environment, even better. Try and structure these sessions in such a way that you both get something out of it. One session may be for you to focus on a task that you both may have an interest in, another might be for you to give each other feedback on where things may not be going quite so well, another maybe around an issue that one of you would like some advice on. Don’t cancel them if at all possible – these should be important to both of you!
6. Ask questions, don’t tell
As a business leader, you will often know the solution to a problem brought to you…How would you respond? If you are committed to someone’s success and want to build a powerful relationship, maybe the right way is to coach a solution from that person. The easy way out is to “tell people” rather than asking them. When you give out too many solutions, then people never learn to think for themselves and stretch their capabilities.
The purpose of asking questions is to stimulate dialogue and exchange of ideas. Such activity prompts the other person to think and learn and increases his or her commitment to what is being discussed. Even if you can answer the question as well or better than they can, ask it anyway. By actively involving them, it adds to their buy-in and performance quality and helps your relationship develop.
7. Give feedback
Giving feedback is the cornerstone of powerful relationships. Very few people come to work to do a bad job and very few people go out of their way to upset people intentionally. Sometimes people are not aware of the impact they have on others either through their behaviours or actions. I’ve given a few ideas below on how you might approach giving feedback:
a) Give feedback in private and face to face if at all possible – never in a text message, IM or email.
b) Be timely – give feedback as quickly as possible after the action / behaviour
c) Be specific with the feedback and try to give a positive reinforcement of how they might have done ‘it’ differently
d) Don’t make it personal – talk about the action / behaviour rather than the individual
e) Ensure you give positive feedback when you notice the change of behaviour
8. Offer to help
Sometimes we all need some support, someone to bounce an idea around with or someone to sound off at. Offering to work with someone on an issue can often really help develop your relationship to a different level and may help take some of the weight off their shoulders at the same time.
9. ‘Wear their Glasses’ – Put yourself in their position
Looking at a challenge or situation from another person’s perspective is a really useful way of getting to the root of issues in the workplace and relationships. You’d be amazed at how differently people perceive the same issue, especially if you work in multi-disciplinary teams. This is another one to practice, as it’s not always easy – it may be one to try out as a team if you can.
10. Don’t put off difficult conversations
It’s often easier in the short-term to avoid confrontation, but the fact is, not having tough conversations costs your business money and is not helping deliver powerful relationships. If left unsaid, issues can create rifts in your relationships and those of your team, leading to further problems downstream.
Acknowledgements: Charles E Smith & Tony and Maggie Turnbull (The Merlin Factor) for their inspiration, energy and friendship.