Build Personal and Professional Relationships


“You know what makes leadership? It is the ability to get men to do what they don’t want to do, and like it.” Harry S. Truman

Build Personal & Professional Relationships

Do you really know your people?

Do you know their hopes and dreams, strengths and weaknesses, spouses and children, where they’ve been, and what they aspire to be?

The best way to build a relationship is to listen. Start with your peers and your immediate or closest subordinates. Get the dialogue going. If this is a new assignment for you, you have a golden opportunity to re-invent yourself and shake off some old or odd habits.

What may appear easy for some can be excruciating for others. Some leaders think themselves likeable and gregarious, when they are really just boorish loudmouths. Other leaders see themselves as paternal and all-knowing, and they will weigh in on any topic, uninvited, unnecessarily.

Ever have your story hijacked? Probably by the boss. Don’t be that guy.

And there are leaders who are overwhelmed with their own problems and these are always isolated from the team, alone in their offices, and can barely muster a “good morning.”

Be sincere.

Be yourself.

This principle should be the fun part of the job.

Some people are gifted at relationship building. It is one of the reasons they were placed in a position of leadership. But most of us need to apply ourselves to establishing a roadmap for really getting to know our team.

Make a plan. Take advantage of the coffee break or lunch hour or just the time of day when things seem sluggish. There exists an ocean of professional advice on the subject, but consider just the simple nuances of everyday interaction.

Who on my team is a morning person? Who likes to work late? Who is private, but easy to laugh? Who is annoying? Who has to leave early for childcare issues? Who is sensitive to loudness or is easily distracted? You are not judging people by their personality quirks. You are developing a sense of what your team, individually and collectively, is capable of accomplishing.

Connect with each and every member. Mentally catalogue that person’s motivation to work. Determine the passion that exists within your people. You will need to tap that passion at some point in order to achieve your mission.

While you get to know your folks (which will ebb and flow, as each person is capable of even small changes), assess their strengths and areas they can improve upon. Put them in a position to be successful. Measure and dispense the work to the skill of your individual members.

If your work is fungible, i.e., substitutable, then it is tricky to give people assignments for them to “win” as everyone’s job is the same. For these types of jobs (think of a union shop) you need to set a safe and high standard of performance. Consistency will be your ally in this regard.

Do not underestimate the mileage in esprit you will gain just by spending non-work time with your team. There is a strong current business trend toward community and charitable activity with business groups. This is an outstanding vehicle to socialize with your team for a grand and uncontroversial cause, and it will emphasize the equality of each member of the unit that all Americans desire.

Last, a safety tip. You must get along with your boss. She is not obligated to get along with you. If you deliver the goods consistently and without incident your rewards will come, but face it, that’s what you are paid for. You need to be obedient to the boss’s dictates, and sensitive to her hot buttons. Don’t let your hard work go unappreciated because you always talk sports, and she always talks about business competitors. Know the audience, and the shifting sand under your feet.

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