Developing positive workplace relationships influences your success as a leader.
Business leaders and managers who develop positive workplace relationships through networking, collaboration, and conflict management are much more likely to succeed. The aim is to build relationships that inspire and drive people to achieve a common goal.
To build and maintain positive relationships, leaders must be able to recognize and show respect for other people, ideas, and perspectives even if they do not agree with them. Leaders must also actively seek to constructively resolve interpersonal disagreement and conflict to keep the team working together and productive. A great leader will be able to nurture relationships both inside and outside of the organization to reach positive results for their connections, organizations, teams, and communities.
Many people think of networking as a social media connection or an awkward conversation at an event with a stranger who they will never hear from again. But when you ask successful leaders what single habit helped them most in their career advancement, the response is overwhelmingly networking. When done correctly, networking creates a foundation of personal and professional contacts that can provide advice, more connections, perspectives, expertise, and experiences to the questions and challenges you or your organization face. In fact, many executives who maintain strong networks of digital and face-to-face relationships are believed to be up to 30% more productive than people who do not leverage their networks.
Networking is a difficult task for many managers and leaders, but it can be a particularly difficult activity for newer managers who often become managers based on technical knowledge or job-specific ability. They do not fully appreciate the highly relational aspects of becoming a manager, yet they have questions and challenges that they are unprepared to handle in their new leadership roles.
More experienced and senior leaders have built networks through years of experience, though they can also face feelings of being alone at the top if they do not have a network for feedback or advice on issues. To combat this, many executive-level leaders are increasingly joining peer advisory groups in which they can meet with other executives and business leaders to share insights, knowledge, ideas, and contacts.
For newer managers, internal networking is a great place to either start or improve networking skills. As employees move into management positions, they often find that they need to be able to work cross-functionally with other departments more so than before. Reaching out to colleagues within your organization, even if your job does not specifically require you to do so, is how you can improve your ability to ensure your department is effectively working toward big-picture goals.
Great internal networkers understand that connecting with and creating value for others in their organization, not just those within their department, improves the performance of all. Internal networking is not about playing office politics or trying to maneuver for special projects, favors, or promotions. It is best used to improve your knowledge of the organization, to develop relationships across the organization, and possibly to establish one or more mentoring relationships.
Great leaders do not just keep all knowledge and new ideas within their departments. They have a network within the organization that they can tap into when they need to influence or enlist stakeholders in complex projects or initiatives. Some might see this dependence as a weakness, but leaders know it is a strength.
Practically every corner of the world is aware of the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.” Problems with this rule occur when leading people with differing personalities, backgrounds, and talents. The Golden Rule does not necessarily work for everyone all the time. You need to manage, motivate, and treat others the way they want to be treated. This is why the Platinum Rule was coined: “Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.”
Collaboration is the process of working together to achieve a common purpose or goal. Effectively working together is easier and more productive when those involved follow the Platinum Rule. Your own personality style and your team members’ personality styles affect how you likely will interact with each other. Recognizing these tendencies can help leaders predict behavior to adapt, build-up, manage, or intervene. As you and your team develop an understanding of personality styles, you will be able to interact with people more effectively and improve collaboration.
When you consider personality styles, it’s fascinating how different people value different traits. For example, some find traits such as patience to be more valuable, whereas others find traits such as decisiveness to be more valuable. Your own personality style determines what traits you find more or less valuable in others.
There are four main personality styles: Analytical, Driver, Amiable, and Expressive. Each of these personality styles exhibits unique general characteristics, strengths, and weaknesses that need to be managed and engaged in subtly different ways to influence and improve collaborative relationships.
Managing personality styles can be a challenging part of managing. However, it is likely that you will have a mix of personality styles on your team, and the diversity can expose the strengths of team members and the synergies that come from working together. For example, you do not want a project team of all Drivers or just Drivers and Expressives on a big, complex problem. You need the Analyticals to help make informed decisions, make incremental plans, and keep the project on task. You also need the Amiables to keep the team functioning positively and working together collaboratively. Drivers and Expressives will help the Analyticals and the Amiables see the big picture end result, keep the energy high to achieve the goal, and drive the project forward instead of getting stuck in the little details.
You must be aware of the various personality styles of your team members. Understand their style strengths and challenges and be prepared to coach your team on how to effectively communicate with you and each other. This requires helping others to value the strengths of everyone on the team and to flex both their own and your communication to best build understanding and engagement.
Disputes don’t always end well, but they can. Conflict resolution skills are important for everyone to enjoy a better life, but they are especially important for managers and leaders to be more effective in their jobs. A manager can spend as much as 40 percent of his or her time managing conflict in the workplace. Just imagine what you could achieve if you could use that time doing something else!
Two of the most common misconceptions about conflict are that all conflict is bad and that conflict resolution is about everyone winning. A conflict that is approached constructively and in a healthy way can be a good conflict. Good conflict causes us to look at why we might be holding personal views and opinions so tightly. It also helps us find a way to live and work more peacefully with other people.
Give up the concept of winning in conflict management. Resolving conflict does not mean that everyone is going to win. It is about the process and ensuring that everyone feels his or her voice and opinion have been heard and considered. The best conflict managers approach conflict with open perspectives, and they ask more questions than others. They believe in the value of preserving relationships and understand that compromising is not a sign of weakness but in many instances is a sign of strength and perspective. Living and working peacefully and productively with others does not necessarily mean that all will agree with one another or that conflicts will not arise.
Conflict resolution is another common myth about conflict. You might have a fundamental value difference with somebody that cannot be resolved, and all the discussion in the world is not going to change either party’s mind. The only way forward in this scenario (which does happen often) is to stop arguing and realize that the issue or topic is going to remain unresolved. This does not mean that you cannot continue to show kindness and respect toward someone with whom you fundamentally disagree. As the saying goes, “You can disagree without being disagreeable.” Being respectful is always your primary aim.
Values-based conflict can be difficult to resolve, and personality conflict is often considered impossible to overcome. In reality, personality conflict often can be resolved. You may think that you will never get along with someone with whom you have a personality conflict. Personality style conflict does take a high level of emotional intelligence to resolve, but it is possible to achieve when you develop your ability to understand your own personality style and the personality styles of associates. The better you adapt, the more likely you can build a productive team with productive relationships.
Managers should attempt to resolve conflicts before they become too large and before the individuals involved are wasting too much negative energy over friction, which may be settled through constructive communication and understanding.
Core Competency: Develops Positive Workplace Relationships
Builds partnerships and effective working relationships to meet shared objectives. Recognizes and shows respect for people, ideas, and perspectives that differ from self. Actively seeks to positively resolve interpersonal disagreement and conflict.
Develops Positive Workplace Relationships Competency Skills
- Collaboration: Builds partnerships and works collaboratively with others to achieve shared objectives.
- Networking: Establishes relationship networks and alliances inside and outside of the organization.
- Conflict Management: Encourages differences of opinions. Anticipates, manages, and resolves the conflict in a constructive manner.
Develops Positive Workplace Relationships Toolkit
A fun team-building exercise: Understanding Personality Styles Within a Team.
- Review the characteristics of the four personality styles (Analytical, Driver, Amiable, Expressive) with the group.
- Create a summary slide or handout with the style descriptors.
- Clarify that all styles are needed for an effective team. No one style is better than another style.
- Each team member selects the style that best describes him or her but does not disclose the style to other team members.
- Have team members tape a blank piece of paper on their backs. Each team member guesses the style of the other person and writes the style name, along with a few words about why the style was selected, on their team member’s paper. For example, Analytical likes to get into the details.
- Once everyone has completed the rounds, allow team members to remove the sheet from their back and review, but without comments.
- Have the group stand in a circle and proceed with the first person: “Sally. What do you think Sally’s style is?” The group calls out what style they believe the person is and then the person reveals his or her style.
- Proceed until everyone’s style has been revealed.