In work and life, people are the most valuable, important, appreciable asset. Make the effort to get to know your team all along the career ladder – both above and below you.
Many, if not most, of the relationships you forge in your work will last far beyond the time you spend in a particular position or company. Respect people and cultivate good working relationships, even if you disagree with their actions, reactions, and decisions. Relationships are constantly evolving and when you have this attitude. It creates space for you and others to keep growing and changing. As legendary leadership expert John Maxwell says,
“When people feel liked, cared for, included, valued, and trusted, they begin to work together with their leader and each other. And that can change the entire working environment. The old saying is really true: people go along with leaders they get along with.”
Here’s a revolutionary idea: make it a goal to enrich your relationships with colleagues, senior leaders, and the team who reports to you (including service providers and consultants). This can manifest itself in several ways, including ever improving communication skills like listening and asking questions.
By definition, leadership requires you to go above and beyond. It doesn’t matter if you naturally get along with, like, or respect the people on your team – you and they will benefit by reflecting upon these ideas.
A few years ago, I was asked to assume a leadership role in public service. Some people in this organization didn’t agree with the governor who appointed me, and sought to block my service. An unpleasant legal struggle ensued, and it was covered in the local papers. Eventually, the issues were sorted out between the governor and the organization, and I was able to serve as a leader. One of my first actions was to invite each person who had disagreed with the governor to breakfast.
By reaching out, I learned who was open to building a relationship. All but one were willing! It turned out that the conversations were natural, and I found things in common with each person. I found attributes to admire in everyone. In the years since, we have achieved great progress for the organization.
When you prioritize relationships, you build a well of goodwill that you can draw from indefinitely. I’ve found that in my most difficult, heart-wrenching leadership challenges, when I make it my goal to improve or enrich a relationship with the person or people on my team who are the most challenging, the outcomes are better.
You can change the tone of your workplace, the trajectory of your projects, and the entire organization by being willing to do the work to make relationships a priority. There is a byproduct to this approach, and that is the surprising friendships that result when you make building relationships a priority.
Good and healthy relationships don’t happen by accident. They are hard, but worth the effort.