Building Relationships That Work
Help leaders achieve greater results by having them examine their own behavior and then engage in specific practices that influence and change others.
Think about how difficult it can be to change your own attitudes and behavior, let alone changing the behavior of someone else. And yet we often find ourselves with people we think need to be fixed or at least changed in some fundamental way. And what happens when our attempts to change them don’t work?
As leaders, much is required of us and we are measured in many ways. But ultimately we are measured by the results we deliver. How do you get results? Unless you are a pro golfer or running a company where you are the only employee, you get results with and through other people. So we’re measured by our results.
As leaders who need to get results through those we lead, the most important competency we can develop and then continue to perfect each day is our ability to influence others. We do that by starting with ourselves.
There are 15 specific practices that are the catalysts to positively influence and in some cases even change others. Each practice is an opportunity to start with ourselves and examine what we can do to change before attempting to change others. When internalized and authentically modeled, these 15 practices can have a profound impact on successful working relationships and transform the results we get.
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. And what we see informs what we think and feel — which has a direct impact on what we do and what we get. 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. You’ll feel powerless like a victim — finding reasons to blame others or justify your knee-jerk reactions. If you want to have more influence in your life or if your emotions are getting in your way, 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. What kind of reputation is it? Do people see you as credible? Credibility is having a high degree of character and competence. And it doesn’t just come with a title or because we want it. It comes with a proven track record of behavior over time.
Practice 4: Play your roles well. Do you find that success in one area of your life comes at the expense of another area? Or maybe you’ve neglected a role so long that it’s caused severe relationship damage. 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? What would you hope they would 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. We sometimes expect perfect results without clarifying clear expectations or allowing for a learning curve. We get frustrated with someone’s behavior when they’re not doing the job how we think it should be done. We become so impatient we miss seeing the talent right in front of us. 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. Hitting and scoring points in a pinball game is a lot like achieving the urgencies that demand your attention every day: phone calls, texts, emails and meetings. You may not feel like your urgent tasks are a game but you can become attracted to the rapid pace and focus required to get them done. Because urgencies act on you and vie for your immediate attention it creates the Pinball Syndrome and 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 rolls 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. Do you win at the expense of others? In education, business, sports or even family life, we are encouraged and rewarded to compete. As a result, many people adopt a win-lose mindset: If you get more, that means I get less so I better get my share first. Thinking “We, Not Me” is based on having an abundant mindset. If you believe there’s a finite amount of rewards, credit, recognition, benefits and even love, you’ll create a fearful worldview and it will be difficult to shift the focus off of yourself and take others’ needs into consideration. If you choose an abundance mindset, you will believe there’s enough for everyone and will be able to care as much about others’ wins as you care about your own.
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 or even bankrupt in any of your emotional bank accounts? When an emotional bank account balance is high so is the resulting level of trust. When the balance is low, trust plummets and relationships suffer. While there are similarities between a traditional bank account and an emotional one, there are also some differences. The most important is you never accumulate a high emotional balance in order to make planned withdrawals later.
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 driven by fear, anger or an unfulfilled need for acceptance, power or safety? Unless you make a regular practice of examining your real motives and questioning your choices, you might inadvertently go on autopilot and create a divide in the relationships that are most important to you at work and home.
Practice 10: Talk less, listen more. When it comes to real-life relationships, our propensity to talk more than we listen works against us. Of course, in the rush to solve problems and get things done there’s a natural tendency for all of us to simply tell. But when we take it upon ourselves to do all the talking we almost always pay a price. 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 they are so ingrained we’re unaware of how we overuse them and the impact that has on others. Let’s say your natural strength is being practical and finding fact-based solutions. If set too high, this “practical volume” may turn into pessimism: You perpetually find reasons for not doing something. Instead of being the leader who inspires and engages forward motion, you become the naysayer who slows everything down. When we inadvertently turn the volume too high on one of our strengths, the negative result can often be a blind spot. Find a trusted friend and get feedback on when you might be dialing up your strengths too much.
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. The majority of relationship snags are rarely caused by people trusting too much. They’re caused by people trusting too little. Consider the character and competence of the person to whom you’re extending trust. Do you trust them to be honest and follow through (character)? Do they have the experience or skillset necessary for the task at hand (competence)? If not, do they have the discipline and drive to grow into it? Remember, you’re 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? If you can’t remember, you’re in good company. 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 perfect chance to build high-trust relationships. Having the wisdom and courage to systematically seek feedback from others makes all the difference for those who are continually getting better at nearly everything they do.
Practice 14: Align inputs with outputs. Do you find yourself unable to consistently get or replicate your desired results, especially when it comes to building relationships? While many inputs (beliefs, actions, words) contribute to relationship effectiveness, identifying the right inputs can make all the difference. The common definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over 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 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 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? The word humility comes from the Latin humilis which literally means low. But it doesn’t mean low self-esteem or low courage. The low it’s referring to means you can get to a place where you realize you are one piece of a much bigger picture. Humble people are strong. They 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, try humility on for size. 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 relationships forward in effective meaningful ways. Because we get our results with and through others, nothing is more important than learning how to be more effective in our relationships.
Todd Davis is chief people officer and executive vice president at FranklinCovey and the author of “Get Better: 15 Proven Practices to Build Effective Relationships at Work,” published in November. Comment below or email editor@CLOmedia.com.