Business is all about people and relationships. If we don’t pay attention to people and tend to these connections well, our business will suffer.
Many of us have been working remotely for months now and the novelty has worn off long ago. But whether your coworkers or team members are located steps away or in a different time zone, strong relationships are necessary to keep business operating smoothly.
Strong work relationships, especially in remote settings, don’t just happen. Effort and intentional steps are necessary to achieve success.
Connect. Make the effort to get to know others as individuals; find common ground. Even simple topics like pets or favorite hobbies can spark a connection. Remember to always approach the process with respect and honesty. Open, sincere communications allow trust to build.
Be human. You are a multidimensional individual; allow yourself to be viewed that way—foibles and all. Being vulnerable doesn’t require exposing your deepest secrets or bad habits. It does require strength to permit others to see your imperfections but the payoff is a deeper connection.
Follow through. This is where we need to “rinse and repeat.” Connection-building conversations are not one-time events; listen attentively and be sure that others know they have been heard. Use your active listening skills and then go a step further—remember what people have shared about themselves. Feel like your memory isn’t up to the challenge? Make notes for yourself on your phone or go old-school and use note cards.
Build rituals. Often the glue that holds people together, even what creates a dependable structure in your own day, is a form of ritual. The commute, breakroom chat, or regular lunch meeting establishes a unifying pattern to the day. Working at a distance disrupts these routines. In Fast Company, Professors David Schonthal and Loran Nordgren of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University stress the importance of establishing new, distinct rituals to bring fresh unity. Time for unstructured chat at the start of a virtual meeting could be all that’s required or perhaps create a new pattern for celebrating birthdays virtually or a regular date for socializing.
Give grace. Relationships—in person, and especially those at a distance—benefit from doing all we can to avoid misunderstandings and misinterpretations. Digital Project Manager Lina Calin wisely offers this advice, particularly for remote relationships: Don’t let assumptions get in the way of true understanding; take time to ask the questions that lead to answers and effective communications.
Don’t forget, “work relationships” aren’t limited to only those between people who share an employer; relationships with clients and customers deserve the same attention and will benefit from the time invested. New practices and new norms have given us all plenty of time to think, reevaluate priorities, and place a fresh emphasis on fruitful, authentic relationships.
Nancy Owsianowski, Founder
RoundTable Consulting, LLC
Nancy Owsianowski is the Founder of RoundTable Consulting where her relational, insightful approach transforms teams, leaders, and organizations. Find Nancy on LinkedIn or reach out to her to learn more about authentic leadership and her coaching, facilitation, and training services.