“Be lavish in your praise and generous in your approbation.” ~ Dale Carnegie
An actionable checklist
1. Be Yourself
It is most important in life as a whole and in building relationships in particular, to be just oneself. Often referred to as being authentic. That is, be honest and reveal who you are as fully and openly as you can be. Putting on airs and trying to imitate others just doesn’t work – people can see through!
The magic word, Trust, the pillar of all relationships works best when you are yourself.
2. Practice Common Courtesy
A simple exchange of smiles and a “Hi” or a “Hello” is the first step in forming a constructive workplace. Make eye contact and refer to people by name, of course if that is the done thing in the organisation. I think though that a more respectful salutation of a “sir” is often the common practice in most businesses and it surely is not a difficult thing to follow. You must wait to see, if the person actually prefers you to call him or her by their first name.
This courteous behaviour is the oil that keeps the engine of relationships running smoothly. It doesn’t mean you have to chat over coffee for an hour or hand out balloons and chocolates (although no one would mind the latter!); but it does mean that you take the effort to be polite, respectful and simply nice to all co-workers – irrespective of grade and designation.
3. Schedule Time to Build Relationships and Networks
The challenge we face here is two-fold. Firstly, to our mind, this thought does not arise and even if it pops up, we dismiss it quickly as being a waste of time or are not committed to it. The second and bigger challenge is that we don’t build time for this in our diary – because we don’t think it is important.
Devote a portion of your day consciously towards relationship building, even if it’s just 20 minutes, perhaps broken up into five-minute segments. For example, you could pop into someone’s office during lunch, reply to people’s postings on Twitter or LinkedIn; or ask a colleague out for a quick cup of coffee. These little interactions help build the foundation of a good relationship, especially if they’re face-to-face.
4. Proceed with Caution on Social Media
A plethora of social media vehicles come and go: Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram — anyone remember Orkut? If you do connect with co-workers through social media, don’t engage in inappropriate relationships and don’t present an unprofessional side of yourself. We’ve all heard that it’s dumb to post drunken photos, but a better rule would be to keep any controversial interests or hobbies separate from your co-workers. Don’t share confidential information about the company or other workers. Assume the company president (or board of directors) is personally following your every move on social media and act accordingly. Your job and maintaining the operations and integrity of the company is the priority. A better option might be to restrict work connections to LinkedIn and leave Facebook for “real-life friends”, family, neighbors, and so on.
5. Stay on the Level
Treat everyone the same. Office politics can be deadly and sometimes even unavoidable, but reduce your involvement in them wherever possible. Don’t gossip or get involved in it when others do. The person you hired might end up being your boss one day, and your manager might get transferred elsewhere then transferred back to become the one in charge again. I have seen both instances happen in real life, proving that staying on a friendly (or at the very least neutral) basis with everyone possible is always the best policy.
6. Be Generous with Praise
Have you noticed how simple acts of appreciation are becoming very scarce these days? And the paradox here is they are the most significant motivators of life.
Show your appreciation whenever someone helps you. Everyone, from your boss to the office cleaner, wants to feel that their work is appreciated. So, genuinely compliment the people around you when they do something well. This will open the door to great work relationships. A “Thank You” always helps. And being generous (backed by sincerity) will do no harm.
I have this habit of sharing “well done” notes and once my Secretary got me off my seat, when she told me after collecting one, that she is now the proud owner of six of them. Small acts of being genuinely kind matters and matters a lot.
7. Be Positive
Focus on being positive. Positivity is attractive and contagious, and it will help strengthen your relationships with your colleagues. No one wants to be around someone who’s negative all the time or even most of the time. Being positive includes, a smile, an encouraging word, appreciation for all the small things and so on.
8. Maintain a Learning Log
It will be great if you can maintain a learning log for yourself – maintaining a daily or even weekly account of what went right for you and what went wrong is a great thing to do. Insights from that list of your learning, in terms of behaviours and actions will accelerate your effectiveness, as you will then tend to repeat positive behaviours and ensure that you have a check on the wrong things.
Remember that we are not all experts on relationships. Often times the things we do, say or write may go wrong in not creating the impact we intended. So it’s good to have self-reviews to assess where we are going right and get to make those behaviours our habit.
9. Be Good in your Communication
It is often not our intent but yet we create wrong impressions through what we say or write. The culprit is our inability to be both contextual and also good in our ability to express ourselves.
So make building and sharpening your communication skills a life-long pursuit. There is always room for improvement and that will help build positive relationships all around. Engage in quick feedback sessions across your stakeholders to know where you are and the gaps to fill.
And the big mistakes that we need to avoid.
1. Don’t Gripe about Work at Work
Everyone grumbles about the job at times. We are a vent-oriented society. Griping is okay — so long as you do it to your significant other, relative, non-work friend, or your pet. Keep it outside the company. Managers should never display frustration about the company to their staff. It will trickle around; that’s a guarantee. Getting paid to complain about work while you’re at work is a little over the top and just fosters an unhealthy victimhood culture. If there’s something you can do about it, then engage in that action positively, if not, address it through the healthiest means possible.
2. Don’t Carry this Attitude that you are Superior and Know Everything
So for heaven’s sake let’s not carry this attitude that we know it all and that the business is getting it all wrong.
Often times, perhaps even without our realising it, this “persona” slips out and we need to be extra careful not to assume this look or bearing. Instead, a more humble and modest approach that you are a “learner” works wonders. The latter does not mean that you have to take things lying down and not speak up – the other end of the spectrum that new comers often get into – that is equally counter-productive.
3. Going it Alone
At first you may not know who to go to for help. You may not want to look indecisive by asking others for advice. And this is surely a big dilemma. But do make sure of having relationships both formal and informal that helps you pursue your agenda, not as a loner but as a team player.
In the initial years, we often carry this mindset rather erroneously that asking people for help or sharing our thoughts is a sign of being seen as “not knowing”. The truth is, it’s just the opposite. People actually enjoy chats and conversations with the young and the new mind, as it brings a breath of freshness to their lives, apart from reminding them of their own youthful days of uncertainties. The key lies in how we go about building relationships.