Business First September 2017 Business First September 2017 - Page 61

Why are Trusting Relationships so important in today’s professional environment? by Nigel Purse, Director at The Oxford Group n any organisation, you will have your boss, people working directly for you, customers, suppliers and a whole range of other people who contribute to the company’s success, and I can guarantee you r relationships with each of these groups of people will differ. Some of the relationships will be natural, fun and open, whilst others will be false, strained and even non­existent… and I’m sure you’ll have reflected on how much better results you’d get if only you could ‘get on’ with some people! We all want great results at work, and so if that means takingconscious steps to establish positive and open relationships with key people you work with, then it’s worth trying. How do you do this with people you may not otherwise feel comfortable with? It is important that these trusting relationships are developed in the early stages of a working partnership otherwise you risk losing a vital opportunity to lay the foundations for working together effectively. In the workplace environment, trust is built very similarly to the trust we all experience in our private lives. It is developed through how we treat and interact with each other. The quality of conversations we have with each other matters deeply – so take time to talk and find out what’s important to the other person. As well as talking and listening, take care to follow up and act consistently, honestly and congruently. A successful and productive conversation followed by unreliable or dishonest behaviour can quickly damage or even destroy the trust which has been built over time. Consistently having productive, open and honest conversations is key to maintaining trust. However, it is all too easy to fall into bad habits with our relationships, both inside and outside of work. For example, it’s not too unusual for couples to let their relationships get stuck on a plateau by becoming uninterested in each other. This is also the case in the workplace. You may make the effort in a new working relationship to establish some common ground such as shared interests and career experiences but how often do you switch to auto pilot and stop making this conscious I effort with one another once you are settled in your roles? Relationships at work need to be maintained as much as personal ones do As a leader, having conversations with the people you work with and building trust is key to getting things done. When employees feel comfortable discussing their opinions and thoughts, the organisation is open to ideas, collaborations and growth possibilities. Without trust, members of staff are more susceptible to being closed and defensive, making company brainstorms and innovation drives difficult. Having trust within a team can even improve efficiency and engagement. Feeling comfortable in the workplace often increases a person’s willingness to go the extra mile and they are more likely to feel proud to belong to that organisation. With trust comes improved efficiency, as it decreases bureaucracy and confrontations, which in turn reduces costs and increases the speed at which tasks are completed. Increased trust also enables managers and business leaders to tailor the way they work with each member of staff. It gives them the insights to fine­tune the way tasks are delegated, the way they coach and also challenge or support each team member. All of these contribute towards creating the exact conditions each person needs to be fully engaged and deliver peak performance. Also from the team member’s point of view, it allows them to understand how their manager works and what makes them ‘tick’. At a business level, one of the most important reasons for building trusting relationships between leaders and their team members is to retain and get the most out of employees. When relationships between levels start to break down, members of staff become disengaged, unmotivated and unproductive. In the worst cases, employees may decide to leave the organisation and bring claims against the organisation, increasing the cost of recruitment and even damaging the company’s reputation. However, this deterioration of relationships can easily be avoided by holding honest, open conversations. This is arguably the quickest and easiest way to improve employee engagement and thus business performance. It may not be possible for you to develop deep, meaningful and open relationships with everyone in the organisation, especially if you are a leader seeking to build a team to deliver challenging, stretching organisational objectives in times of change and stress. However, just making that conscious effort to have open conversations and connect with one another will improve your efficiency and productivity as well as engaging people with what your company is trying to achieve. About Nigel Purse Nigel founded The Oxford Group in 1987 following a career in HR and business management with the Mars Corporation and Burmah Oil (now part of BP). Nigel is passionate about developing leadership capability in leaders of all ages, and writes and speaks regularly on this subject for audiences worldwide. He is the author of ‘Five Conversations’ and leads the associated training programmes which transform trust, performance and engagement at work. Nigel’s areas of expertise include talent identification and development, leadership development and behavioural interviewing. 59