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If there was ever a time to reconsider our relationships with one another, today might be that time.

People are divided. Most don’t know where to begin and don’t have words to change the status quo.

Some workplaces resemble battlefields.

Relationships are sacrificed to an illusion of sustained productivity and progress. Behind the illusion is a fantasy that time heals all relationship wounds. At every turn in organization development, relationships drive human enterprise.

People bring all types of feelings into the workplace. Among those feelings is anxiety.  People worry about perceptions, ratings, and how others react to their needs and wants. The best way to address workplace anxiety is to provide clarity and alignment to goals.

Coaches, consultants, and people leaders have unique roles in keeping goals in others’ plain sight. Coaches cajole and encourage performance to goals. Consultants help teams to set and keep improvement goals in focus. Among their many roles, people and culture leaders connect diverse talent in hopes of sparking service improvements and product innovation.

Powering-up our relationships requires insight, effort, and willing partners. This article highlights the critical factors that outstanding people leaders consider when called to transform relationships. These approaches provide a disciplined approach to improving relationships and increasing personal and professional success.

Seven Frameworks to Understand and Empower Relationships

1. Energize collaboration and teamwork when necessary.

It’s important to know when people need to work together and when they don’t need to work together. Some managers force-fit collaboration and teamwork when it’s unnecessary, increasing unnecessary meetings and false promises of involvement. There are other circumstances when people or groups need to work together, and they are not. Skilled people leaders know when teamwork and collaboration add value to enterprise efforts. Genuine partnership leaves little room for absences of sincerity and generosity.

woman in red knit sweater sitting by the table

2. Adjust and learn as performance improves.

When improving relationships, skilled coaches and managers have varied skills at their disposal. Successful coaches and managers don’t rely on credentials and experience to drive teamwork. They deploy abilities to learn and to innovate as new information becomes available. Learning is a new skill that fosters advancement and growth. Individuals in pairs are rewarded for outcomes produced. A natural result of learning in organizational systems is improvement, given the right support and incubation.

3. Drive purpose and self-esteem by developing organizational citizenry.

A significant improvement of teamwork and relationships allows a manager to drive organizational purpose. Teammates see the connection between their collaborative efforts and organizational intent. When people are engaged in organizational citizenry, their self-esteem increases with purpose-driven accomplishments. People who are confident in their skin and their abilities to learn benefit from relationships where skills and contributions are valued.  Commitment to organizational purpose increases when managers and coaches reinforce actions that produce superior returns.

4. Shape teamwork as a response to changes in the environment and acknowledge the power of pairs to influence environments.

Every team operates in a dynamic environment. Forces outside an organization create unique demands that affect supplies and outputs. Strong pairs form powerful relationships to transform environmental inputs into results that customers value and want. Outside forces aren’t considered oppositional to relationships and effective teamwork. When individuals pair and team effectively, they capitalize on unique powers to influence their environments. Capitalization requires a belief that paired interactions and forces can influence systems to their will when energies are directed to positive aims and outcomes.  Work in this area helps us distinguish what we want to do and what we need to do.

5. Align actions to announcements, declarations, and proclamations.

Leaders must walk their talk to give adequate expression to personal and organizational values. People do their best work when their heads and hearts are engaged. When people pay lip-service to change, most see through it, and the waste of talent and other resources is consequential. People don’t want to stagger through days with mindless compliance with the latest pronouncements and programs. Leaders are powerful role models for change.  Relationships and teamwork improve with honesty and feedback. Course-corrections can signal capacity for long-term achievement. When messages are not aligned, conflict increases and productivity decreases.

6. Foster one-on-one and one-to-many relationships.

When developing pairs for effective teamwork and progress, pay attention to the boundaries around the team. How does the pair promote inclusion and learning? Couples are natural human groupings, as are trios and small groups. The energy of two differs from that of three. When developing pairs, pay attention to other pairs at work.  The potential of pairs to initiate and propel change is extraordinary.  Focus on developing momentum appropriate to the changes and results that you desire.

7. Improve management systems and processes.

Broken systems don’t help. People form workarounds. To encourage effective teamwork and pairings, leaders pay attention to the support systems to achieve work. And, in progressive organizations, systems designers value speed, accuracy, and security preservation. People need accountability to work effectively, and, in pairs, technology often lags collaboration requirements. People need to exchange ideas and meet to drive innovation and value.

Moving to Next Steps

Improving relationships doesn’t need to remain mysterious to people business partners. It begins with acknowledging the current state of affairs and creating alignment between what is said and what is done.  Do leadership messages match organizational and people behaviors?  If statements and actions don’t match, work on eliminating restraining forces and increasing positive change forces.

Managers and others developing effective pairs will scan their environments for support. Improving pair-work and teamwork isn’t something that you have to do on your own. Resourceful managers seek out others for advice and guidance. And, they work with their pairs to understand what they need, want, and value. Improving interpersonal relationships strengthens commitment to progress.

As a final next step, managers busy at the work of improving workplace relationships honestly assess their needs and abilities to be of assistance. In most cases, demonstrations of attention and care are the first and lasting steps to produce radical change.

The positive feelings associated with effective pairing at work often outlast jobs that come and go. The power of relationships in an organization helps all of us to realize our potential and possibility.