You’ve probably heard the adage that an organization’s greatest assets are its people. I’d like to take that one step further and share that, in my experience, it’s the relationships between those people that create the culture and in the end become an organization’s ultimate competitive advantage. In other words, relationships matter; nearly everything gets better when we focus on strengthening them. In my new book, Get Better: 15 Proven Practices to Build Effective Relationships at Work, I catalogue the 15 best and most effective methods to building an organization’s competitive advantage through better relationships.
Practice 1: Wear Glasses That Work
One of the biggest challenges to working with others effectively is being overly invested in your version of the truth. The “glasses” we choose to wear each day are the beliefs through which we see ourselves and everything around us. If we’re too invested in our point of view, we may miss seeing the true potential in ourselves or others
Practice 2: Carry Your Own Weather
If you believe that external things (like other people or situations) are the source of your unhappiness or happiness, life will always happen to you. If you want to have a more influence in your life, or, remember you have the freedom to choose to carry your own weather.
Practice 3: Behave Your Way to Credibility
We all have a reputation—whether we like it or not. That reputation has been built over the days, weeks, months or years you’ve been with your employer, your partner, your children and your friends. And it comes with a proven track record of behavior over time.
Practice 4: Play Your Roles Well
Playing your roles well is about identifying your most important roles, both professional and personal, and then deciding the meaningful contributions you want to make in each. If those impacted by you in each of your roles were to write a review about you today, what would they say?
Practice 5: See the Tree, Not Just the Seedling
Have you ever given up on someone prematurely? Maybe it was a coworker who saw things differently than you, or a team member you “inherited” who didn’t seem to do their fair share. When we take time to consider a person’s potential, it allows us to see past the “seedling” and envision the mighty tree it can become.
Practice 6: Avoid the Pinball Syndrome
Because urgencies act on you and vie for your immediate attention, with the Pinball Syndrome, you start to confuse what’s urgent with what’s truly important. When you get a small respite between your urgencies (before the score resets and the next ball ratchets into place), it’s what you do in that moment between reaching for the plunger in autopilot mode or choosing to step back and reflect on what’s truly important—that will make all the difference.
Practice 7: Think We, Not Me
Practice 8: Take Stock of Your Emotional Bank Accounts
You probably pay attention to your financial bank accounts—the deposits and withdrawals, the interest and penalties—but are you at risk of being overdrawn in any of your emotional bank accounts? When an emotional bank account balance is high, so is the resulting level of trust. Different from a financial bank account, with the Emotional Bank Account, you never accumulate a high emotional balance in order to make a planned withdrawal.
Practice 9: Examine Your Real Motives
Motives are the underlying reasons for the actions you take and the words you say. No one can tell you what your motives are. They may try, but you are the only one who can know your real reasons for doing what you do. Are your motives healthy—based on wanting the best for yourself and others? Or do you ever have an unhealthy motive—one that is driven by fear, anger, or an unfulfilled need for acceptance, power, or safety?
Practice 10: Talk Less, Listen More
Unfortunately, when it comes to real-life relationships, our propensity to talk more than we listen works against us. One of the most profound gifts you can give to another human being is your sincere understanding. To do so requires clearing away your mental clutter, suspending (at least temporarily) your agenda, and stopping long enough to focus and hear what someone is really saying.
Practice 11: Get Your Volume Right
We all have natural strengths. But sometimes are unaware of how we overuse them and the impact that has on others. Let’s say your natural strength is being practical; you pride yourself on finding fact-based solutions. But if set too high, this “practical volume” may turn into pessimism: you perpetually find “facts” or reasons for not doing something. When we inadvertently turn the volume too high on one of our strengths, the negative result can often be a blind spot to us.
Practice 12: Extend Trust
Are you more inclined to distrust others than to trust them? Or do you give away your trust prematurely and regret it later? Neither extreme is useful when building effective relationships. In my years of coaching others, I find the majority of relationship snags are rarely caused by people trusting too much; they’re caused by people trusting too little. Consider both the character and competence of the person to whom you’re extending trust. Remember, your always better off to begin with a propensity to trust.
Practice 13: Make it Safe to Tell the Truth
When was the last time you asked for feedback? Most of us resist it because we equate it with criticism. It brings to the surface what we don’t want to admit—that each of us is a work in progress. But if we avoid creating opportunities to receive feedback, or unknowingly make it unsafe for others to tell us the truth, we’ll miss a huge learning curve and a perfect chance to build high-trust relationships.
Practice 14: Align Inputs with Outputs
We all know the definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over again yet expecting a different result; yet many smart people continue to do just that. Those who successfully break this chain carefully define the output they want, examine their current inputs, test new inputs, and then analyze the result. The next time you’re struggling to achieve your desired result—especially in the area of relationships—try applying these steps again and again until you identify inputs that work.
Practice 15: Start with Humility
Has your lack of humility ever held you back from getting better—would you even know if it had? People with humility have a secure sense of self because their validation comes from the inside, not the outside. In short, they are not controlled by their ego. If you’re serious about getting better—especially at building relationships that work, start with humility. Just the opposite of “weak”, humility is the greatest strength we can develop.
These are the 15 practices I’ve seen time and time again trip us up, or, become real catalysts for moving our relationships forward in effective, meaningful ways.