Unless you’re the sole decision-maker, you need employee support for your decisions. Even leaders must rely on networks and coalitions, along with informal ways to collaborate, coordinate, and share.
Yet at the same time, at every level and in every kind of job, more and more people in the workplace are feeling detached, not cared about, or not recognized for who they really are. Everyone does better when they feel that they matter and that they’re noticed — and the best way to help employees feel valuable is to connect with them.
Two by Two
What’s the most efficient way to connect? By building teams of two. When you build teams of two, you can expand your influence and create a community of mutual support. Even if you’re the business owner, you can only command so much and your authority only goes so far. The idea of being in relationship — achieving mutuality of interest — is still crucial. No matter how your business hierarchy is structured, who you know can be a powerful multiplier for what you know.
“Okay,” you say, “sign me up! But how do I do it?” If you’re ready to build relationships with your staff and colleagues throughout the organization, all it takes is simple, human involvement — that is, expending some time, effort, and personal energy. Start with the most basic building blocks: looking and listening.
Change the Ways You Interact, and Your Relationships Will Change
Look directly at everyone you talk to for the duration of your entire interaction. That doesn’t mean staring or glaring, it means gazing at them with interest and curiosity because you want to understand how they react, what motivates them, and what they see ahead. Most people don’t really pay attention, so to feel someone else’s purposeful attention can create a powerful combination of relaxation and inspiration — to be able to be who and how you are, and simultaneously, to want to contribute and participate. The only time you don’t need to look at someone is when you’re both looking at something together.
Similarly, listen, really listen, because part of being in relationship is hearing someone out until they’re done — without shifting the conversation to your next subject or to things that you find more interesting or important. Schedule enough time for talking so that you don’t need to cut them off, and plan to ask thoughtful, probing questions to ensure they’re telling you everything they think about the subject at hand.
Treat both the looking and the listening as opportunities for learning enough about what your colleagues do, work on, or care about that that you can respond in relevant and acknowledging ways. You don’t need to be an expert on their concerns, but you do need to demonstrate — whether you’re talking about business or something personal — that you understand why something is new, important, or difficult to them.
Connection Makes Reciprocity Possible
At the close of the conversation, be sure to thank them for their interest, participation, and contribution, whether they paid attention to your pitch, gave you advice, or wished you well even if they couldn’t help. And make sure to follow up, whether you’ve promised them something or just to see how their initiative went, if they’re making progress, or if they need to talk again.
This kind of personal attention creates connection, depth of relationship, and reciprocity. Teams of two can figure out more, combine resources, share knowledge, and provide support. At the very least, building teams of two means you’ll have more people to greet as you walk around the office, and more people to sit next to in meetings and at lunch. If you do it well, your new teammates will be able to vouch for the quality of your work and ideas, and whenever they can, will help you move forward.
Onward and upward,