“The quality of our relationships determines the quality of our lives, but equally so, the quality of relationships at work determines the quality of our work and our overall ability to succeed,” says well-known psychotherapist, Esther Perel.
Although relationships are critical to the individual success of employees and the overall success of organizations, soft skills have traditionally been de-emphasized. Below, I’ll uncover the importance of forming strong connections in the workplace and how you can actively promote relational mastery within your teams.
Fundamentally, organizations are a collection of people working together towards a common purpose. Each of these relationships within a company is directly tied to its success, so it’s vital that your employees are able to form and maintain healthy connections with one another. At 15Five, we refer to this ability as relational mastery.
Those with relational mastery build relationships rooted in mutual trust, respect, and transparency. When these elements become a priority, professional relationships become more capable of accomplishing their goals and withstanding challenges.
Relational mastery is especially relevant in environments that value diversity. There are myriad benefits of bringing together people from all walks of life, including more innovation and higher job satisfaction, but you won’t be able to unlock the potential of your workforce unless you create an equitable and inclusive environment. And to do this, you must support your people in forming impactful connections and equipping them with the tools to repair relationships when disconnection occurs.
A truly cohesive workforce that excels in relational mastery can help bridge the gap between cultures, promote a strong sense of belonging, and encourage more empathy across the board. And while there isn’t a simple formula for building deep-seated connections, there are ways you can promote relational mastery within your company. Below are five organizational habits you can implement today.
1. Assume positive intent
When you experience something that you feel is harmful or doesn’t match your view of the world, it’s easy to jump to negative conclusions. If you instead assume positive intent and automatically grant trust, it allows you to react with curiosity and attempt to understand before becoming defensive.
2. Share expectations and make agreements
Failed expectations are one of the most common ways relational friction arises. If a coworker or direct report doesn’t meet your expectations, you may feel hurt or frustrated. But in most cases, that person likely never agreed to those expectations because they didn’t know they existed. When collaborating with others, it’s important to clearly communicate what you expect and create the space for them to do the same.
3. Facilitate clearing conversations
The goal for any conscious, thriving workplace is to allow employees to be their most authentic selves. In creating a DEI-focused community, a mix of behaviors, mindsets, and points of view will—and should—come to light. In these cases, tension may be inevitable, but continued relational health is not. When friction and conflict arise between colleagues, clearing conversations allow for the issue to be addressed and resolved in a productive manner.
4. Deliver truth with kindness
The greatest chance for feedback to be well received and contribute to the health of a relationship is to deliver feedback with empathy and tact. When you bring genuine care for the person you offer feedback to, you give yourself the best chance of diffusing defensiveness and protecting the feeling of psychological safety.
5. Don’t expect to meet someone halfway
If you believe that resolving conflict requires each person to meet halfway, your chances of resolution decrease dramatically. This mindset will prompt you to look for ways in which the other is not holding their end of the deal. Instead, if you believe that each party must take 100% responsibility for their intent, impact, and commitment to repair, positive results are far more likely.
Even if the individuals who make up your company are top-of-the-line talent, a company can’t achieve the extraordinary unless those within it work as a cohesive unit. Providing your people with the support to form meaningful connections and modeling the behavior will help you tap into the many benefits of having a diverse workplace.
Jennie Yang is a leadership coach and facilitator who believes that when you adopt a personal growth mindset and invest in your own development, you will uncover your purpose and unlock your own potential. As Director of Talent Transformation at 15Five, Jennie helps enable 15Five’s mission to create highly engaged, high-performing organizations by helping people become their best selves. Follow her on Twitter @jenniemaeyang.
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