April 2022

Building Relationships in Hybrid Times

Woman in holds cat while working on a laptop in an office

You may be reading this in an office, in your home, or maybe an airport lounge. But wherever your workday takes place, one thing remains constant: you’ll spend most of it – consciously or unconsciously – working on your relationships.

Whether that’s with your team, leaders, colleagues, vendors, or partners – for most of us, interaction with others is a large part of our day, and a large part of our success. And it’s become trickier than ever, given that our work is geographically and temporally at odds with easy collaboration. What to do?

Trust. 
As Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer, said recently in his session at the South By Southwest conference, “Reputation … you lose it in buckets, but gain it back in drops.” Trust in each other unlocks great things, but it is a precious commodity acquired with great care and patience – and should be treated as such. Earn it consciously and give it openly.

Empathize. 
Another attribute requiring patience: the willingness, and ability, to put yourself in another’s shoes. What are their biggest worries? What problem do they need solved? Recognize that we all have different styles and needs, whether that’s for learning, socialization, work, or scheduling – and that we’re all dealing with different pressures, both inside and outside work.

Document.  
Document processes or procedures in simple, clear, easily accessible ways; improve them often; and remind folks regularly that the tools are there. Not only will this illuminate opportunities for improvement, it can also prevent time-consuming questions, give grace to forgetful moments, and help build autonomy and mastery.

Unite. 
If you’re working together, you’re very rarely really in competition, but sometimes, difficult dynamics can make your interactions seem that way. Remind each other of your end goal and shared mission. Often, being solution-oriented just means sticking together.

Summarize.  
One error we often see is that people wish to communicate far more wordily than they’re willing to read themselves. Honor the short attention that comes with overwhelm, and seek to be succinct, while repeating yourself across different channels.

Underschedule. 
This seems to contradict the previous point, but it shouldn’t. Are your meeting agendas clear? Are they scheduled often enough, but not too often? Are they brief enough to be efficient, but long enough to be unrushed? Make them count.

Appreciate.  
A small word or gesture can change everything, and you have that opportunity every day. Notice and make the most of those instances when you can display gratitude for someone’s effort or wisdom or kindness. Oh: and don’t just thank them. Copy their boss.

Notice. 
Celebrate achievements both big and small – and don’t stop there. Make a note of promotions, birthdays, anniversaries, and other life events, and take a moment to remember and honor those milestones in the full lives of the people around you.

Include.  
The chances that you have a team that truly, accurately reflects the real world are, statistically speaking, pretty low. Seek more different perspectives, and then celebrate and share new ideas, risks, innovations, and corrections to outdated approaches.

Adam Grant, organizational psychologist at Wharton, says: “In toxic cultures, people get promoted for results even if they destroy relationships ... In healthy cultures, no level of individual excellence justifies undermining people. You’re not a high performer if you don't elevate others.” Elevate others and elevate yourself.

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