How to fast track the creation of great working relationships
One of the most important things you can do as a leader is to create really effective working relationships. We all know the power of really good relationships – and know too well the pain and inefficiencies that are the result of poor ones! As Marion Barraud writes in a recent HBR post, “When your team knows how you like to work and how you plan to manage them, they’re able to produce results faster. When you know how each of your direct reports likes to work and communicate, you’re able to save time when setting direction and following up.”
Consider some of your preferences and how these might show up at work…
- Do you like detail or the ‘big picture’?
- Do you like to do your thinking aloud or prefer time to think quietly before sharing your thoughts with others?
- Do you like to have regular check-ins with team members, or do you prefer them to come to you when they have an issue or a question?
- How do you like to receive information? In an email, in person, in a meeting?
- What are the ‘must knows’ as opposed to the ‘nice to knows’?
- What level of supervision sits most comfortably with you?
- What ‘hat’ do you tend to wear most often? (Thinking hats : white – objective / facts, black – downsides, blue – process, yellow – benefits, green – creativity, red – feelings)
- Do you like to be planned and organised, or do you like variety and spontaneity?
There are many facets of our style and preferences that show up at work. Some of them we realise well, some of them we may be blind too. One way to fast track relationships is to think and talk about these styles and preferences, and to learn about the styles and preferences of those we work with.
An HBR article called Do You Know How Each Person on Your Team Likes to Work? shared these suggestions. The first is a sample table that a manager pulled together. The second is a set of possible questions you could explore about yourself and with team members.
Consider these questions when creating your own table and encouraging your direct reports to do the same:
- “What are some misperceptions people have had about you in the past? Perhaps they haven’t said it to you directly, but a friend or your partner has jokingly commented about it.
- What do you care most about in terms of how work is done? For instance, think about how you like materials to be prepared for a broad audience.
- What are some ways that you tend to communicate? Some people tend to be direct, like Sveta, but others take a more indirect approach. Consider where you fall on the spectrum.
- What are your hot button issues? Maybe you want to know ahead of time if someone is about to miss a deadline, or you don’t like people interrupting you in a meeting.
- What are some quirks about you?” For example, you may not be a ‘morning person’ so you may prefer to defer critical meetings till after 10 am.
Much like the idea above, this second blog shares that “many of us figure out our colleagues’ personalities, preferences, and dislikes through trial and error, not through explicit conversation.” It describes the idea of the ‘user-manual’, a one pager that helps others to understand how to work with you. The blog by Leah Fessler shares one approach to a ‘user-manual’ and is centred around these 6 questions:
- My style
- What I value
- What I don’t have patience for
- How to best communicate with me
- How to help me
- What people misunderstand about me
Each section contains only four or five bullet points.
As Leah Fessler shares in this blog ‘thirty minutes spent writing a manual can save hours analysing and predicting what your colleagues like and hate. What’s more, if my experience is anything to draw from, sharing manuals with your colleagues will build connection, and make you feel less alone.’
So how could I do something with these ideas?
Do you think this might be a good thing to do with your team? It would be great in a newly formed team, or my a new manager to a team, but it would also be a brilliant exercise with long standing teams. Think about your team and how you could use some of the ideas above to ‘fast track relationships’.
It is important to keep in mind, however that while this exercise is helpful to inform your team of your preferences — and for you to learn theirs — it may mean you (and others) need to make some tweaks to your / their habits and approaches. Sometimes we need to find a common ground! For example, “If your team indicates that they find positive feedback motivating, but that’s something you tend to give sparingly, you’ll likely want to take more time to praise and commend your employees, even if it feels strange at first.”
The ideas shared above, or variations on them, aim to help people learn to “adapt to one another by offering an explicit description of one’s personal values and how one works best with others.” This shortens the learning curve for employees, helps everyone avoid misunderstandings, and gives people more insight into the people we spend so much time with every day!