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Building quality relationships for a high-performing team

Jane Boucher

All things being equal, people do business with people they know and like. All things being unequal, people still do business with those they know and like.

Do you want greater productivity and a sweeter bottom line? It all depends on your relationships. The key to your success is not your technical expertise; the key to your success is your interpersonal skill. Henry Ford said that the secret to success was to understand another person’s point of view. Successful people understand that relationships are like trees in a storm. If they don’t bend, they break. I never understand why people call interpersonal communications a soft skill. Communicating is a hard skill, which is why so many co-workers have difficulty getting along. I have made my life’s work about building high-performance work teams. You cannot have a high-performing team if people don’t like or respect one another. The five keys to building quality relationships at work are to:

1. Communicate

Or rather: communicate, communicate, communicate! You can turn around a negative relationship with a co-worker by communicating. In fact, communication is the umbrella for everything that happens as you seek to establish a more positive relationship with your colleague. Be consistent and clear. If you have a co-worker who seems to misinterpret everything you tell them about what you need, examine your conversations. Are you being clear and direct? Are you listening to their questions and are they answering yours? Do you make others work to understand you? Keep your communication simple and to the point.

2. Listen

This is the other side of the communication coin. You need to listen to what is not being said. The way a person acts speaks so loudly that you cannot hear what they say. In other words, people communicate by their behavior. When you listen to your colleague, are you really paying attention or are you faking it? What does your body language say about your listening skills? Do you keep eye contact, stop what you are doing and give your full attention? Make sure your co-worker knows you are listening. Ask a question or repeat what you are told so they know you have heard them. When you listen to your colleague, usually they will respond in kind.

3. Try a little respect

In today’s world, can you demand that someone respect you? Not today. Respect has to be earned by considerate and consistent behavior If you treat a child, a spouse and a colleague with respect, you will usually get respect in return.

4. Examine your contribution to negative relationships

Examine your own reaction to your co-workers. Are you creating conflict in your own mind? Are you reacting defensively to a co-worker’s unthinking comment and letting it fester? Clear your mind of preconceived notions. Consider this: Some of what you perceive about difficult people at work could mean that your co-worker simply has a different personality than you and sees the world through a different lens. There are many ways to accomplish a goal, and your way may not be the only way. Try to keep your mind open to other people’s ideas.

5. Give up the need for control

Most people who are struggling with a difficult co-worker want to do something to “fix” that person to change them into what you think they should be. To put it bluntly, forget it! The only person who can change in a co-worker crisis is you. You cannot expect to control your colleague’s behavior without causing further conflict and tension for both of you. Once you decide to change yourself and let go of your attempts to control your co-worker, be casual in your approach to relationship building. Any sudden change in your behavior may breed suspicion. Your co-worker may begin to wonder, “Now what is she after?” You don’t want that response. In an already difficult relationship, the other person may be naturally suspicious of you anyway. Take it slowly and do not make demands. Just let the person know that you really want to work on the relationship.

You might be surprised how your relationship can turn around with a little bit of sincere effort. In fact, sometimes the bad relationship can become your greatest asset and advocate. Be honest with each other, continue to work on the relationship and don’t give up!

Jane Boucher is an author and professional speaker with offices in Reno. Reach her at 853-0226 or jane@janeboucher.com.


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