CEO @StoneAge | Keynote Speaker | Thought Leader | Leadership Blogger | Podcast Host | YPO Member. Find out more at www.kerrysiggins.com
I think we all want to feel successful — to be seen for our value and respected for doing a good job. And in my opinion, the secret to success is having strong, healthy relationships, both personally and professionally.
Early in my leadership journey, I witnessed how the natural tension between roles within my company caused conflict. And when unresolved, this conflict damaged relationships. I was deeply curious: How could I help my employees get past finger-pointing, judging, avoiding, gossiping — all those behaviors that diminish relationships?
Understanding that team health can make or break companies, I began studying conflict resolution, vulnerability, daring leadership and effective communication. I sat down with struggling employees to understand what was going on, helping them turn things around. I mediated conflicts between teammates, helping them see each other’s points of view. I taught myself and others to seek to understand rather than make assumptions and judge. I coached my team on how to give effective feedback, using straightforward yet caring language, and I taught them how to create a safe space so others could provide them with feedback. Developing strong, healthy relationships built on trust, honesty and compassion was our focus. And it changed me and the company.
I’ve found building solid relationships with your coworkers is imperative to your success, their success and the company’s success. According to a study (paywall) in the Academy of Management Journal, the more time you spend trying to understand and build relationships with your colleagues, the better you cultivate shared experiences and develop more trusting relationships. When trust exists between coworkers, there is a much higher chance of collaboration, cooperation and contribution.
Looking back on the things I’ve learned about building relationships within teams and across departments, it comes down to three things: put in the effort, seek to understand and solve problems rather than create them.
Let’s start with effort.
I’ve found that the adage is true: People won’t care about you until they know you care about them. What you put into relationships is what you get out of them. And it takes time to develop strong relationships. Sit down with your colleagues and get to know them. Let them get to know you. Understand their challenges and tell them about yours. Having a deeper understanding will help you work through issues without resulting in a communication breakdown.
Seek to understand.
Humans can be terrible at assuming we know what’s going on in other’s people’s hearts and minds. So instead of assuming, ask. Before making a judgment, ask. Before telling yourself a negative story, ask. How often have you been guilty of making incorrect assumptions or telling yourself a false story? Perhaps more often than you know, especially if you aren’t proactive. So, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Ask questions, dig deeper and seek to understand.
Finally, solve problems rather than create them.
If you have put in the effort to build the relationship and are proactively looking for ways to partner with sales, the rubber meets the road when you put problem-solving to the test. Sure, it might be easier to say no, or to blow someone off or throw up roadblocks in self-defense, but where does that get you? Nowhere when it comes to building important relationships. Instead, look for creative ways to tackle problems. One way to do this is to ask better questions — questions that draw out ideas.
Let’s say you are trying to figure out why the company isn’t hitting its sales targets. It can be easy to point fingers, especially at the sales team. You could say, “Why aren’t we hitting our sales targets?” But this will put people on the spot and create defensiveness. Instead, ask, “What are three things we can do differently to drive more sales?” Why? You’ll get solution-based answers inspired by problem-solving rather than finger-pointing.
As a business leader, I get that the days are busy and building relationships might not seem like a top priority. The day-to-day work is what’s in front of you, and in the moment, it can seem easier to say no. And maybe you must repair some damaged relationships, and that can be intimidating. But if you want to be seen as a valued, trusted partner, there is almost nothing more important. If you want to succeed, practice these three tips to get the respect you want and deserve. Put in the effort, be proactive and find solutions to problems rather than creating more. I promise the reward is worth the effort.