I've met a lot of great people over the years, both in my life as a professional actor and in the business world. Relationship building has always been a top priority for me. I always feel that we do our best work for, and with, those with whom we build a human relationship.
Occasionally, however, I find that when people think of relationship building, the first big thought they have is how it can benefit them, in terms of a prospect or client. They think that the most important relationships you can build are the ones that help you close sales or open doors. And yes, those external relationships are extremely important.
But what about the internal relationships at your organization?
By now, you've undoubtedly heard about the connection between happiness in the workplace and productivity. In fact, a recent British study out of the University of Warwick showed that happiness alone led to a 12% increase in productivity. But productivity aside, it's not a stretch to see the benefits of a harmonious workplace with strong business relationships.
There are lots of ways to build your workplace relationships, but here are four relationship building activities to work on whether you're management or an individual team member:
Try an open-ended question day. Questions are the best way to build relationships, and open-ended questions are the number one questions to ask to do so. When we see people in the office day in and day out, we can take the relationship for granted. We revert to asking closed-ended questions (those that can be answered with one word) rather than open questions that foster discussion.
Whether you do this as a proper office-wide exercise, or make this a personal initiative of your own, practice asking these relationship building questions for one day. Instead of "Did you have a good weekend?" try, "What did you do this weekend?" Replace "Did your presentation go well?" with, "How did you feel about your presentation?" You get the idea. Focusing on this relationship building activity will help make this pattern of communication second nature.
Invest in Emotional Intelligence training. EI is one of our most popular offerings, and it's not hard to imagine why. I mention it here because I believe so strongly in what it can do for relationships in all parts of life, both inside and outside of the office. The actual process of learning to increase your Emotional Intelligence requires examining your relationship to yourself, as well as those around you.
If you can't get some training on your schedule this minute, start by working on these four questions. Answer honestly. If you're so inclined, bring your team together to discuss, or seek out a trusted colleague and swap notes.
- When it comes to relationships with colleagues, I excel at ___________________.
- When it comes to relationships with colleagues, I struggle with _______________.
- When I get frustrated in a work setting, I _____________________________________.
- If I had to guess how my colleagues feel about me, I would think______________.
Watch our free webinar, An Emotional Intelligence Primer, here.
If you're management, ask yourself if you're "playing favorites". It's simple to have a relationship with those who make it easy. But it's also important to build a relationship when it's hard. Assess your interactions with your team, and make sure you're not avoiding people, or entire departments, because they offer a challenge.
If you find that you may be playing favorites, attack that problem head on. Reach out to the group or individual and start scheduling specific time to get together, one-on-one. Work to repair, or simply build, that relationship.
If you're a team member, do the same. It can be extremely difficult to accomplish goals or complete tasks when you don't know (or get a long with) a certain colleague. Try and prioritize that relationship for a bit. Even if it's a quick chat in the breakroom over coffee, forging those connections help create a happier, more harmonious workplace overall.
Remember, relationship building activities aren't only for those who externally bring you business or directly affect your bottom line. A strong internal team is what makes a company succeed.