Silicon Valley lawyer Louis Lehot shares 10 tips on how to build healthy relationships at work.
As a service provider selling time in increments of minutes, I have spent the last 20 years of my law practice with most of my waking minutes in the office or out-and-about serving clients. I relish going into the office every day and interacting with my team, finding ways to solve problems, finding ways to help my clients win. It’s no surprise that many of the strongest relationships I have built over the past 20 years have revolved around my work.
Following are some thoughts on how to build healthy relationships in the office:
1. Be positive.
The power of positive thinking can not be over-estimated. Positive thoughts turn into positive actions. Positive words turn into trust. Avoid sharing negative thoughts, actions, criticisms, sarcasm, sniping or judging of others. Make it a habit to be positive in everything you do and say.
2. Set your sights on being the best.
Nothing delivers success like success. When you set your sights on being the best, delivering on time, to specification, with every detail thought through, you will achieve greater success. When you achieve success, you will receive more opportunities, and more chances for more success. It’s simple. Set your sights on being the best.
3. Champion the benefits of difference.
Every team member will bring unique personal, cultural, or background-specific attributes. Many will be different from you. Accept those differences. Champion them. Be a place where everyone can say what they think and bring their own unique perspective. There is no “I” in team.
4. Your word is your bond.
The most basic element of every human relationship is trust. Always be honest with your team mates. Tell the truth. Be transparent. Do not gossip or share personal information that others do not need to know. Trust is the building block of relationships.
One of the quickest ways to lose trust is to surprise your team mates, not provide a deliverable on time or to specification. With so many communication tools, from Slack channels to text to email, meaning can get lost in words or crude abbreviations. Make time to communicate directly and clearly, face-to-face or direct voice contact, and avoid misunderstandings.
6. Care for, appreciate and celebrate your colleagues.
When you have trust and communicate, you can achieve great results with your colleagues at work. Meanwhile, life is happening every minute. Your team mates are human. They need to be cared for. This can be shown in small ways, from bringing someone a glass of water during a conference call that is going long, to fetching someone a sandwich when they are stuck at their desks working through the lunch hour. They need to be appreciated and thanked when they deliver. Nothing destroys relationships faster than taking credit for the work of your colleagues, or failing to acknowledge their achievements. Celebrate your colleagues! It makes them feel good and it will make you feel good too!
7. Give and earn respect.
No matter how high you climb in your firm, you rely on the contributions of every member of your team, whether they are entry level or senior, to deliver success. Showing respect for the newest member of your team, giving them time, showing them the ropes, being respectful of their ideas, and not being harsh when you disagree with them, establish your own credibility and engender the respect of others. When you give respect, you get respect.
We have all been there. We have all had a boss that would ask us to do something, micro-manage us, and then criticize the final product, essentially because it was not as perfect as if the boss had done it herself. The cemetery is filled with such irreplaceable bosses where nothing could be done that wasn’t done by them. But you won’t make progress if you don’t give your team mates the autonomy, space and level of comfort to try things themselves. You will be glad that when you give your team mates the freedom to complete their tasks, they will feel greater satisfaction and often deliver even greater results.
9. One-on-one interactions.
While your calendar might be chalk full of meetings, whether in a group setting or one-on-one reports, finding time to have honest one-on-one interactions that build trust, where communication is free and clear, and is always respectful, will make your relationships go to the next level. Whether spontaneous or planned, taking 15 minutes out to grab a cup of coffee, or to walk around the block, and you might learn something special about how to make your colleagues happy, what they need to feel more supported, and how you can get more from yourself and your team.
10. Open to change.
Relationships are about trust and mutual success. Keep an open mind to how things can be done differently to be more effective, more efficient, or simply in greater harmony. Your colleagues should think that you are the person that is open to and reads the literal or figurative “suggestion box.” While in the waiting room at the office of one of my clients last week, I saw that my brilliant friend and founder of her company had placed a physical “suggestion box” near the restrooms, complete with pad, paper and pen, seemingly eager to capture and harvest every idea no matter from where.
Finally, a word on healthy boundaries. There is a thin line between being friendly with your colleagues and forming a personal bond. Success in the office requires compassion, care and friendliness with your team mates, but getting overly personal can bring big problems. If you are spending personal time outside of the office with a colleague, you should examine whether that relationship is truly healthy, whether it would survive the scrutiny of other colleagues, and whether it has potential for harm. Maintaining healthy boundaries and a balanced lifestyle can help avoid this.