We need leaders who are smart, get things done, AND connect and relate to the people who support them. Yet I often find that many leaders feel uncomfortable in relating to others in a way that moves their organization forward. So the mission(s) don’t get accomplished while these leaders stay within their comfort zone - in their offices, managing people without connecting with them except to become overly involved in their daily work. Employees aren’t trusted, resulting in lost potential and frustration.
Great work relationships are key for leaders to truly lead people without meddling.
If you’re a smart leader who loves to get involved in the daily detail of the work in your organization, yet you feel discomfort in talking and working with people beyond their daily tasks, listen up: if you don’t develop relationships with the people who do the work, their full potential will lie fallow. And that has implications for your ability to be seen as a leader and your organization to achieve – and possibly exceed – the goals you’ve set.
Creating great, trusting work relationships may require you to step out of your comfort zone. You can do this, while still staying true to what you love doing by:
Finding different ways to be in your comfort zone: Like detail work? Pick up a hobby that requires attention to detail, satisfying your craving while allowing your employees to work without your interference. If you like to code or to do math or other detail -oriented work, find ways to do those things outside of work. This will keep you sharp in your area of expertise while continuing to give you some satisfaction doing work you love.
Ensuring balance in all areas of your life: It’s easier to leave your comfort zone when you feel like you are paying attention to non-work activities that are important to you. When you’re off-balance, you are pulling against gravity and may tend to continue the behaviors that you are most at ease with. Make sure that you spend enough non-work time doing things that energize you so that you can use your reserve energy to develop those great work relationships that will sustain your leadership and your organization.
Connecting through non-work conversation: When you’re working with people for 8+ hours a day, it only makes sense to have conversations that are meant to get to know others around you on a personal level. When you ask questions about their hobbies, their weekends, and their families you can be more forgiving and empathetic if the relationship gets bumpy. Let the conversation flow naturally from your questions, allowing them to get to know a little about you as a person too.
Being appreciative of the creative ways others do their work: There is always more than one way to get something done. As long as your employees are meeting time deadlines and quality standards, let them do things their way. You can then sit back, notice, and appreciate their creativity!
You have to leave your comfort zone to develop trusting work relationships. Push yourself to find ways that work for you and watch your employees soar!
More From Mary Jo Asmus
Mary Jo Asmus is an executive/leadership coach whose work spans decades of making a difference in the lives of hundreds of executives, leaders and teams in Fortune 500, mid- and small- sized business, governments and nonprofits. She focuses on facilitating individuals and teams from first-line supervisor to the C-suite to create, develop, and influence the relationships that can make them extraordinary.