Tuesday, April 10

Develop effective working relationships with direct reports 


As a new manager, you must rely on your people. The more you commit to developing and maintaining respectful, productive relationships with them, the larger the payoff in terms of motivation, commitment, and support.

You will enhance your relationships with your employees by showing:
· Sincere interest in them and what is important to them
· Respect for all, even for people with whom you disagree or do not understand
· Simple courtesy: saying “please” and “thank you”
· Respect for employees’ ideas and experience by asking for their advice and involvement
· Recognition of their contributions

You can improve your relationships with your employees by soliciting their feedback. Ask for the feedback in an informal, nonthreatening manner. Also, let employees know that your reason for requesting such information is to improve your working relationships with them. To solicit employees’ feedback:
1. Arrange an individual, informal meeting with each employee to discuss your working relationship. Provide as nonthreatening an environment as possible for this meeting. Hold it in “neutral territory” — conference room, cafeteria — not in your office.
2. Ask the employee for comments on things you do that help the working relationship and for suggestions on how you might improve it. Be careful not to dominate the conversation, and try to respond to the employee’s remarks in a nondefensive, honest way.
3. Don’t promise more than you can deliver; remember, your follow-through will be the key to improving the relationship.

You may wish to explore other ways of soliciting employees’ feedback on your relationships with them. Some employees may prefer to give anonymous feedback. Or, you may ask for feedback from a trusted peer who is in a position to observe your relationships with your employees.

Whatever plan or procedure you use to obtain feedback, your aim should be to generate goals for improving your working relationships with your employees. You may want to share your goals with them. After working toward your goals for awhile, go through this feedback solicitation process again to get their impressions of how your relationships with them have changed.

To build relationships with your people, show interest and concern for them as individuals, not just as "your employees."

Over the next few months, use the following guidelines to demonstrate a personal interest in your employees. Take a gradual approach to getting to know your employees; a sudden, intense expression of interest may look like you are prying into their personal lives.
· Take time for informal chats with employees in the hallways or during brief, unscheduled visits. Ask about their personal interests — family, hobbies, goals. Follow up by occasionally inquiring about their current concerns.
· Share some of your personal interests. Employees will feel more comfortable sharing their interests with you if they feel that you are willing to reveal information about yourself.
· Consider arranging occasional social events, such as lunches or department parties, where you can discuss mutual interests other than business.
· If employees wish to discuss personal problems, be willing to listen. Take care, however, not to take on roles for which you may not be professionally trained, such as that of financial or family counselor.

Finally, respect the confidentiality of employees’ personal concerns and avoid using shared personal information in a way that employees may see as traitorous. For example, if an employee is late to work, a comment such as, “I know you have small children you must take care of in the morning, but it’s essential that you get to work on time,” can make the employee regret that he or she opened up to you and reluctant to share personal information in the future.

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