4 Steps to Build Your Most Important Relationships

The people you RELY on most, may not be the people you LIKE the most. Let’s look at how to create a framework for separating, measuring, and responding to this paradigm with a plan of action.

This coaching exercise is inspired by Dr. Colm Foster (my co-author of STEP UP. Lead in Six Moments That Matter), and also by my colleague and New York Times best-selling author, Dr. Marshall Goldsmith. They both state that you must be really clear about exactly who are the 5 to 10 people most important to your career, and nurture these relationships above all others. Today, we’ll show you some ways of doing this.

Step One: Make a list of the 5 to 10 people at work you really LIKE to interact with, showing how they relate to you. These are the people that make you smile when you see their name in your inbox, on Slack, or dialing in on your phone. Please write them down now. When you are finished, your list should look like this:

like

Step Two: Now, make a list of the 5 to 10 people you RELY on most to be successful in your career. Some of these people are defaults. (For example, you have no choice about listing your boss.) You should also list any direct reports. Now, think about the peers you rely on most, customers and/or vendors. You’re not listing departments or companies; you are listing individual people. Write them down. When you are done, your list should look like this:

need

Step Three: Assess the status of each relationship, using our traffic light system. GREEN means the relationship is great, so keep it going without any need for immediate attention or action. YELLOW means proceed with caution, or slow down. This might be due to some recent struggle or lack of attention. Perhaps this one needs some time for reflection. (You might ask this person “How do you feel about how things are going between us?) RED means the relationship is tense, unproductive, and/or clearly in need of some work. Stop what you are doing and make a plan to improve this relationship. For help on any of your relationships in RED, you might want to watch one of our blogs on Emotional Safety™

Step Four: Decide what you will do to build and strengthen the relationships you need the most. Will it be an offer of help? Providing a resource? Checking in with them? Starting a new behavior? How about stopping a behavior? When you are finished, your list should look like this:

Although this concept is easy to understand, with our busy schedules it’s not always easy to find the time required to invest in the relationships we rely on most for our success. Again, it is important not to confuse the people you like the most with the people you need the most. You must pay attention to the ones you need the most; and there is a clear return on investment when you follow through on this. For more on how to do this, watch our blog entitled Reversing the Polarity of Communications for Better Business Results; or our latest blog on Generating Empathy.

Emotional Safety™: The Key to Making Smart Decisions

Informed people make the best decisions, and, as a result, add the most value to their organizations.

Whatever job you have and whatever your level of authority, your people are relying on you to be informed about your function, no matter whether you’re CEO or packing and shipping on the warehouse floor. No matter where you sit or what you do, other people count on you to know your stuff.

In short: Your co-workers want you to be an expert; but what makes an ‘expert’? An expert may have earned that reputation through a combination of training, study, work experience, observation, or ongoing learning.

We suggest that part of being and remaining an expert is linked to being fully informed about your role; meaning that your knowledge goes beyond the day-to-day responsibilities of your job. It means you know where your work comes from, why your work exists, and that you understand the needs of your stakeholders. In addition, it means knowing how others see you as an employee, boss, vendor, or co-worker.

This is where our concept of ‘Emotional Safety™‘ becomes important. Most people find it easy to approach you to share good news about your performance or behavior. They also find it easy to tell you when you’ve done something well. But what about the times when things aren’t going so well? What if someone wants to give you constructive criticism? We suggest that the easier and more rewarding you make it to bring you ‘bad’ news, the more informed you will be.

Simply put: Emotional Safety™ means you make others feel comfortable in bringing you bad or challenging news. If you master Emotional Safety™, you will be going beyond making them comfortable in approaching you, and actually make them feel rewarded and appreciated for doing so.

So, when someone points out a problem with your plan, thank them. When someone suggests that you behaved badly during an interaction, thank them; and, when someone challenges your opinion, acknowledge their thoughts and thank them.

For stronger relationships, dealing with feelings before facts will get you deeper, more rewarding and more productive relationships. It will also promote better business results.

One of my colleagues, Dr. Tim Turner, ran the Emotional Intelligence Development program for the FBI. Early in his career as an agent, Tim noticed that the agents who solved the most cases were not the tough guys you see in the movies. Instead, they had a way of making others feel comfortable. Even when interrogating a suspect, the agents created an experience of Emotional Safety™ for that person.

So how can you bring this about in your work? By collecting as much data as you can (even the stuff you don’t like hearing about) so you can make fully-informed decisions.

Think about it this way, just because people aren’t telling you how you can improve, doesn’t mean you don’t need to improve, because we all do. It is more likely to mean that they’ve had an unrewarding experience with you, and, as a result, they’ve started to withhold information from you. If too many people do that, you’ll still have the same decision-making authority; but you’ll be deciding in an uninformed way, making you dangerous to your organization.

For more on Emotional Safety™, read our Amazon top-10 business book, “Step Up–Lead in Six Moments that Matter“, co-authored by Henry Evans and Colm Foster. The last chapter is focused on creating Emotional Safety™ for everyone, which will foster better business results.