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Courage helps build trustworthy, sustainable relationships

The success we experience in our personal and professional lives is strongly influenced by our ability to build, maintain and restore relationships.

The more effective we are with these skills, the more effective we will be at leading and guiding others, and the more pathways we will create for success.

We develop an endless number of relationships in and around our workplace – employees, peers, customers, vendors, industry alliances and community. Some of these relationship are developed out of need, and some by choice.

But every sustainable relationship, personal or professional, takes time and a conscious effort to cultivate.

When we accept personal accountability to create healthy relationships in the workplace, it usually means we have open and honest communication forging a foundation of mutual trust and respect with each other. When we use these skills on a consistent basis, we diminish the risk of alienating others.

In a recent survey, I asked – “Aside from open and honest communication, what are the other elements of a good relationship in the workplace?”

The respondents represented people from 21 industries in a broad range of leadership positions, and in small to large for-profit and not-for-profit businesses.

Although, many of the responses were the same or similar, the top two words people selected outside of “communication” were “trust” and “respect.”

Survey participants also felt “alignment of core values,” “flexibility,” “patience” and “teamwork” were key elements in their workplace relationships.

You may think this all sounds like too much work, and you may be right. But, the guess here is that already you are using all or most of these elements in your relationships.

The question is: Are you using them consistently?

If not, what steps can you take to become consistent and ensure alignment instead of starting down a path of alienation?

When relationships fail, it usually can be traced to a misunderstanding triggered by assumptions and ineffective communication.

Unfortunately, failed relationships lead to mistrust, poor behaviors and performance, lack of engagement, employee turnover and lost opportunities. Our greatest challenges are preventing them from failing in the first place, and then rebuilding them as soon as possible, if and when they do fail.

Epicurus, the ancient Greek philosopher, said: “You don’t develop courage by being happy in your relationships every day. You develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity.”

Even if the translation from Greek to English is skewed by time and interpretation, Epicurus’ connection between courage and relationships helps us realize that opportunities for personal growth and development lie in how we handle difficult times and challenging adversity.

The trick is to not become complacent in our relationships, or reliant on others to deal with the challenges and fix the problems. Take the lead and be courageous in your efforts to bring people back to the basics – communication, trust and respect.

Our busy, and sometimes overwhelming, lives make it easy to become complacent, especially with the people with which we spend the most time.

Once this happens, we start making assumptions that others know exactly what we want and expect from them. And when they don’t come through with the results, we are disappointed and annoyed.

Complacency starts to threaten a relationship when we don’t address or confront the other person directly and quickly regarding our disappointment. Instead, we theoretically throw up our hands and say “it shouldn’t be this difficult.”

Don’t start down a path that could have been avoided. Make the time to apply a little extra effort and communicate more information up front. Let people know what you are thinking and what you expect from them.

Check in with your relationship-building skills by asking the people you lead, and work closely with, to identify your abilities.

The question might sound like this: “What skills do I demonstrate well in my relationships with the people I work with, and in what areas do I need to improve?”

Let those who participate in this exercise help hold you accountable for enhancing what you do well, and what you need to improve. It will make them feel more connected to you, and they will learn from the experience.

Bonnie Sussman-Versace – business leader, entrepreneur and principal of Focused LLC in Wyomissing – is dedicated to developing leaders, enhancing cultures and improving performance for business growth and prosperity. She can be reached at bversace@focusedllc.net or 610-301-2194.

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