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many times they simply go through the motions of creating working agreements, clarifying goals and roles, only to promptly ignore them when they get back to their desks. Time is of the essence (emails continue to demand attention). And the perception that building relationships is “soft and fluffy” leads us to undervalue the time to focus on the interpersonal side of business. I remember being told early in my finance career, “This is a business; there is no place here for emotions or personal connections, it’s not personal.” With such a philosophy its little wonder that trust within teams declined and the confidence in the team leader was diminished. We all know when the rules of engagement have been broken. We sit in meetings drumming our fingers, clenching our teeth in frustration. We vent to our families and friends, but we remain silent at work. We don’t air our concerns for fear of the repercussions, or for fear of making an already stressful situation worse. We justify and excuse the situation because no one else is speaking up. We believe it is the way it has to be, and we don’t want to go against the grain. We avoid the tough conversation with the very people who could effect change—our colleagues . . . and even ourselves. Invariably, the inability to “talk it out” causes the situation to worsen until the relationship is so damaged there is little hope for reconciliation, at which point one or both parties leave the organization. You’ve seen it happen—perhaps in your own career. Rules of Engagement Asking for what you need to be successful at the start of each relationship or project means you can more easily course-correct when things go off track. Notice I said when, and not if! I’ve had the opportunity to work for managers (and with colleagues) who assumed I could read their minds, only to have them come down on me like a ton of bricks when my sixth sense fizzled. And I’ve been guilty of this myself. Articulating the rules of engagement sets you up for success, both on the good days when things are going well and, more importantly, during the turbulent times when many of us revert back to inappropriate behaviors (micromanaging, command and control, or passiveaggressiveness, to name a few). Rules of engagement could include the following steps: • Ensuring that the two parties are in agreement regarding the objectives to be achieved. • Agreeing on the levels of authority and decision-making responsibilities. • Articulating roles and responsibilities. • Understanding individual personality, communication, and decision-making styles, where these are in alignment and where they may be different, and the implications for how values and behaviors will be important to success. • Meeting cadence—where and how often will meetings occur? • Escalation process—when and who to ask for help and provide warnings of impending disaster. • Feedback and coaching expectations. Try these for your next project. By learning to set expectations, you find clarity about who you can rely on for advice, and who can be a filter for tough decisions. Your team will also know who can be called on when you don’t know how to solve a problem. Old Enough to Know Better An assumption that gets organizations and individuals into trouble is a false sense of security around age, tenure, or seniority. Too often I hear, “You’ve been in this industry long enough, you know what the priority is,” or “I don’t need to tell you how to do your job.” This is particularly prevalent when experienced leaders join a new company. Rather than invest the time to effectively “onboard” a senior leader, many times the new team or organization takes a laissez-faire approach. While these seasoned senior leaders may have known what to do and how to do it at their previous company, the new company is a whole new ballgame, with a whole new set of players and a different culture. I have no doubt that these experienced senior leaders will eventually work out the new rules of the game, but at what cost? Having a conversation about WHAT needs to be done (the goals and objectives) is just one part of the equation. If you are not discussing the HOW of your working relationships, be prepared for the predictable surprise when things don’t go as planned. We need to care about others’ success from day one. No matter how successful you’ve been, when you are working with a new team member, new team, or a new company, a candid conversation about the HOW is not optional for success. You directly own the HOW. You conduct yourself and your interactions with others. Your reputation, your results, and your legacy depend on this. Who Knows You? Cultivating winning relationships isn’t just about getting business results today; it’s also about the quality of your working relationships and your network as a whole. Are you on a path to deliver long-term success in your career aspirations? As has always been the case, the “who knows you” trumps “who you know.” In today’s hyper-connected world, this is even more pertinent! With LinkedIn, you are only a few degrees removed from a hiring manager. Trust me; the savvy recruiters are reaching out to your connections for their perspective. This is more than collecting business cards, Facebook “Likes,” or LinkedIn connections. It’s about being thoughtful in developing your brand. Whether you are using social media to build connections within your organization, or your company utilizes a similar tool as a company directory, having virtual connections does not equal having effective working relationships. To cultivate winning relationships, you need to get to know the person behind the online account. Your success depends on it because, as it turns out, business is personal… and relationships do matter! LE Social Bonds Matter Morag Barrett is founder of SkyeTeam, an international HR consulting company, and author of Cultivate: The Power of Winning Relationships. Visit www.MoragBarrett.com 75 leadership excellence essentials presented by HR.com | 04.2014


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