Building Relationships… What Exactly Does That Mean?
What Does It Take To Build And Develop A Truly Great Team? Part 9 of a series…
So let’s try to finish up our series on hiring for, and developing our team from average to great. You’ll remember (I hope) that we’re talking about hourly team members, from no experience/entry-level to Store Team Leader level… you can find part 1 here. At this level, which includes almost all retail/restaurant jobs (almost anyone paid hourly) we are hiring for qualities rather than skills, as we can teach anyone most any skill needed, however we cannot teach anyone the qualities we need… And as an added bonus, if we hire exclusively for Leadership qualities, we need never look elsewhere for our future Leaders.
We also talked about how to hire for customer service, as well as the importance of indoctrinating our new hires. For the last few posts we’ve discussed moving those few people who don’t belong on our team off of our team; moving our current team members from average to great by introducing new expectations (while owning our part in allowing the old behaviors); and the beginning steps to changing the culture of our team.
So let’s pick up by talking about developing relationships… what exactly does that mean? A long time ago, when I was new to being responsible for the behavior of other people, I kind of thought that meant figuring out how to manipulate them into doing what needed to be done. I was not very self-aware, and looking back; I was a pretty selfish young man. So… what I wanted, and what I was responsible for making happen, was much more important than what the people working for me wanted or needed.
Needless to say, I found my work to be a constant struggle, moving between attempting to befriend my workers, attempting to coerce them through fear or intimidation, and following up after them, often doing the work that still needed to be done myself. It was exhausting!
Through SO MANY mistakes, some huge and painful life lessons, reading some great books, and with some great advice and mentoring by a few good Leaders I was lucky enough to work with/for, I was able to start to understand that it’s not all about me and what I want or need. I remember my mother, as well as the nuns in Catholic school, telling me that doing for others is it’s own reward; and that working for the good of the group will almost guarantee that you will get what you want (perhaps by changing what we want!?). It was many years before I understood these lessons, and could start putting them into practice.
So where am I going with all of this?
Building relationships is not about getting what you want. In order to have our team members want to do what needs to be done, they have to trust us, believe in, and care about the goals of the team, and know that helping them achieve their goals is genuinely important to us.
So… building a relationship with another person starts with getting to know that person. It’s about them… not you! I have come to believe that most people can tell in pretty short order when the person speaking to them is genuinely interested in them, or if they are trying to manipulate them. The only reason to proceed from here is because you are genuinely interested in learning about the other, and in helping them achieve their goals. If you move forward with any other intentions, I believe it won’t be long before you are found out, and you will have blown your chances of developing a trusting relationship.
Let’s move forward believing that we are all on the same page… that we are not saints, so we have our own goals, wants, and needs (sometimes we act selfishly, and sometimes we are self-absorbed). And… more often than not, we are genuinely interested in helping other people achieve their goals, and helping other people makes us feel good. We good?
Building relationships takes time. We have to make a real commitment to this effort, as it will take many months (at least) depending on the size of your team, and how you have acted in the past, to get to know your team members, and start to build trust between you. You will have to meet with each team member (or at least your department team Leaders) a couple of times/month at first in order to get to know them; show them you are really committed to them and this process; and to be able to take some action towards helping them achieve their goals.
If you try to rush this process, you will not achieve the results you want. Your team members will see that you simply want to get to some end where they do your bidding, and you will have wasted all of your time. Please either commit to this fully, or do not start the process until you are ready to fully commit.
Do not fool yourself into believing that you already have the relationships you need. If you did, you would not need to change the culture of your team. You would just need to alter your expectations, and perhaps get your team together to come up with some aggressive new goals. And if you are reading this, that is not where you are. If you actually have great relationships with your team members, you probably don’t need my help, and you most likely already have a great team. So let’s get realistic, and commit to doing this right.
Wow! 1000 words, and my posts are already much longer than people tell me they should be. So… we’ll stop here, and perhaps part 10 will be the last of the series. Next time we’ll talk about purposefully developing a culture where feedback is expected, and where it is “heard” as an attempt to help us constantly and incrementally improve.
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