Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR
Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?
The two primary reasons leaders may be hesitant to focus on relationship management are time and stress. Task management (and putting out “fires” associated with those tasks) takes up a significant portion of a leader’s time. If we don’t watch out, we could allow ourselves to get lost in a spreadsheet or project and not take the time to notice the people around us. Leading can be extremely stressful, and negotiating conflict and the “people” aspect of work is very difficult. Relationship management is challenging on a GOOD day, let alone when in an environment of high stress.
What is the case for doing it anyway?
Relationship Management is where the magic is. This happens when leaders bring together the ability to understand and manage their own emotions plus the ability to accurately pick up on the emotions of others to manage interactions successfully. Relationship management is the connection a leader makes with their colleagues over time, even with those a leader is not fond of on a personal level, to make the most out of every interaction. Solid relationships are the result of how you as a leader understand people, how you treat them and the common experiences you share. Solid relationships not only enable an environment through which awesome teamwork can happen, but where individuals in the relationship feel they can contribute and are valued.
How can you do it?
- Be open and interested. I know…you are thinking “not this touchy-feely stuff”, right? No group hugs here. What being “open” suggests is sharing information about yourself – who you are, what makes you tick, what goals you have, etc. Leading for relationship management means that you must allow others “in” and be maybe a bit more vulnerable than you might wish. The more those you lead really “know” you, the more they will understand you and hopefully, allow for less misinterpretation of your words and actions. Then…you have to be curious about getting to know “who” your team members are, their motivations and goals, for all the same reasons.
- Acknowledge other person’s feelings. Lean into your own discomfort a bit here, and acknowledge other people’s feelings where “they are” not where you wish they would be. Everyone has the right to experience feelings, even if it is not what you wish or how you feel. You do not have to agree with your colleague, but recognize and respect that their feelings are real to them. This type of validation will go a long way toward demonstrating that you are genuinely interested in your colleague and toward creating a stronger connection in the relationship.
- Show that you care. An encouraging text. A small handwritten note. A Snickers Bar (when you really need it…sorry wellness folks!) When you know your team and you are connecting with them as a person, take the time to use this knowledge and recognize their special efforts or unique situations with just the right encouragement. This demonstrates that you care and will really make a difference in the strength of your relationship.
What are some of your barriers to relationship management that you see as impacting your effectiveness?Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/blog. We learn best from each other’s experiences.