How leaders can build strong working relationships

Build strong working relationships

Building strong working relationships is important for being a good leader and manager. If you have a good working relationship with someone, it is generally because you respect, trust and often like the other person.

Without a good working relationship, work becomes difficult and tiring. Convincing people about your great new idea becomes almost impossible. Getting your team to work hard for you is a constant battle.

It’s good to think of a working relationship as a bank account. When you start to build a good working relationship, that’s a deposit in the account. When you push back on somebody, make a mistake, ask a favour or have a confrontation, you make a withdrawal.

What you need to do is make sure that you have enough funds in your account to do a good job.

Depositing into your working relationship account

Building good working relationships includes actions that build trust and good will, such as:
  • Buying someone a coffee
  • Supporting a decision
  • Helping someone
  • Listening to somebody else’s opinion, or
  • Showing interest in someone’s personal life

It takes time to build up the funds in your account – it won’t happen overnight. Listening to feedback from your team and adjusting your approach can be a good way to build good working relationships.

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Withdrawing funds from your working relationship account

Once you have money in your account, you don’t need to cash it in. But it’s there when you need it. Things that might require a withdrawal include:
  • Disagreeing with a decision
  • Challenging someone, or
  • Asking for a favour.

Think about it – if you have made no effort to help others first, why would they try to help you?

Balancing the working relationship account

Your working relationship account is a balancing act. When you meet someone for the first time, you often have no working relationship. People who start with nothing and try to ask favours from others will likely overdraw their account and annoy people.

Without the time and effort spent to build working relationships, you’re unlikely to be able to accomplish very much. Having a negative balance in your account means that people don’t want to help you. If they do help, it’s because they feel as if they have to because of your authority or some other reason.

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If your account is overdrawn, you aren’t able to pay for anything. Imagine the service you would get if you only gave a plumber $20 when the job actually costs $200. Without a good working relationship, people will put in minimal effort for you, because they aren’t receiving what they are entitled to.

Leaders who take time building good working relationships will be able to withdraw from their account to do what they need to do. This is important in roles that involve influencing people. One of the secrets to being able to push back effectively is to build respect and rapport beforehand.

Being genuine and authentic is the best way of building working relationships

If you try to build working relationships by “schmoozing” or being a “yes person”, you aren’t likely to have much success. Observant people will realise you’re trying to “butter them up” and you may actually be withdrawing from your account when you are really trying to make a deposit!

Are you the type of leader who is asking for a lot, without having spent the time and effort to build up your working relationships first? Make sure you do it the right way. Save your money before you try to withdraw it, or you may not get what you want.

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