I often speak to leaders who desire to increase the level of performance, initiative, productivity, enthusiasm, competence, and overall engagement of their direct reports. When I ask them what the relationship looks like between themselves and their direct reports, I often get a puzzled look as if to say “What does relationships have to do with business results”?
The point that I want them to understand is that relationships matter in business. In particular relationships that have an interdependent quality to them. We all need each other to produce the best products and/or services. No one person stands alone in accomplishing anything worthwhile. But this notion of interdependence does not happen on its own. It is part and parcel to the culture of the organization and there are some key building blocks and activities that happen daily to support it.
Working our way backwards, below interdependence is the activity and mindset of collaboration. There is no room for silos and protection of information. Rather the mindset of how I can be of service to you? How can I assist you in meeting your most pressing needs? How does my unit, team, or functional area impact yours? How can we best work together to fulfill our individual and collective goals? What information can I provide you with to turn perceptions into reality? If leaders demonstrate collaboration day in and day out, those they lead, more often than not, will follow suit.
Below collaboration and the foundation of interdependence is trust. Trust is developed with every interaction we have with others. It used to be trust was developed with every face to face interaction, but in today’s technological world, we all know the impact of a scathing e-mail, an encouraging IM, a heartfelt twitter, or a curt voice-mail, all of which serve to either build or destroy trust. When I work with organizations in developing trust we talk about three key components: Integrity, Competence, and Compassion. Each of these components needs to be focused on daily in order to build trust. But one area in particular could use added attention. Based on feedback from direct reports, the area leaders struggle the most with is Compassion.
We have all heard the saying “no one cares what you know, until they know that you care.” So what are some ways for a leader to demonstrate care? Following are a few key strategies that can bolster how you are perceived in the area of Compassion and in turn trust, collaboration, and interdependence.
One-on-one meetings: Schedule regular weekly or bi-weekly, half-hour one and one meetings with your direct reports. There is a twofold purpose: 1) you get to know your people below the surface, what is going on in their personal lives that they want to share, understand their challenges, their needs, where they want to go in the organization, where they want to go in life, and how you can assist in their overall development. 2) Provide an opportunity for your people to get to know you, understand your challenges and needs, and how working together you can accomplish the organization’s goals and objectives.
Leadership by walking around — spend some intentional time getting to know all the people that work for you. Go beyond the surface level chit-chat and make an effort to understand what is most important to all of your people. There as some common values that we share and top among these is family.
Skip-level-meetings- if you lead several functional areas or are responsible for two or more layers within the organization, have regular meetings with your direct report’s people. This will give you an opportunity to directly understand their wants, needs, and concerns.
One of my recent executive coaching clients, Mike from the Sony Corporation, implemented one on one sessions. At first he was reluctant given the time it would take from his day. But as he invoked this new strategy for relationship building he had the following insight: “these sessions create a space for a much larger dialogue” meaning, it started on the surface and over time has yielded incredible depth within the relationship, but also in improving how he works with his people to reach their and Sony’s goals and objectives. Relationship building is a cornerstone of leadership, how are you doing in building yours?
Paul Martinez is the President of Dynamic Solutions specializing in leadership and organizational development. He is also an executive coach at the Center for Creative Leadership. He can be reached at Paul@ru-dynamicallydriven.com or 719-351-7356.