Relationships matter - A picture of coffee chats

Are you missing the coffee chats?

In conversations with many of our clients they are telling us they miss the coffee chats and feel it’s an opportunity lost. It might be those lightbulbs you have when you just explore something with someone over a coffee. Or the chance meeting that illuminates an opportunity you hadn’t noticed or the connection when you feel frustrated. This is all about showing your relationships matter.

But how do you recreate that when you are virtual or even worse, when some are in the office and some aren’t?

I heard of one Sales Director who was brilliant at keeping in touch with staff not just in his team, but around the entire organisation. He always had a packet of chocolate biscuits and offered them out as the starter to the conversation. People instantly relaxed and felt at ease. What’s the virtual equivalent?

I know of another Director who started to ‘attend’ virtual team meetings. This was confusing for people to start with. He hadn’t done this in the office so why now?

Both of these examples show that the Directors really do think relationships matter but consistency is the key to avoiding suspicion of your motives.

But it’s not just at a senior level where the absence of chance conversations is lost. At all levels in organisations people are feeling the contradiction of being in digital overload with back to back virtual meetings but at the same time isolated.

People need chats.

Just chats.

This is where ideas flourish and people build confidence to share them more formally. Now, more than ever before organisations need this or they will stagnate. So, whilst what I’m suggesting, might at first sight, seem trivial it cuts the heart of your organisation culture. #relationshipsmatter

Actions speak louder than words

As Directors if you agree this is important then you need to lead by example. You need to consistently demonstrate the importance of #relationshipsmatter. It might feel awkward to start with but it won’t feel like that if you are consistent. What’s your virtual equivalent of “hey, how you doing?” Perhaps dropping an IM to someone you don’t always have chance to catch up with asking if they are free for a chat then starting with “Just checking in with you, how are things for you?” is always a good place to start or if you are a little more direct “Hey, what you working on at the moment?”

The reason I have given a starter for 10 is this. No matter how confident you are, starting a conversation when you have asked for it is much harder than the chance meeting where you take the bull by the horns. Fear can hold us back no matter how confident we are in the office – it’s a step into the unknown with someone you don’t know that well.

Give it a go, you never know what gems of an idea might be seeded.

‘How can I help?’

If you really want to play your part in building a proactive, positive culture this question is the most important of all questions you can ask. Ask it and pause. The longer the pause will tell you much about how often someone asks this question! And, when they answer really be present and listen to what they have to say. Relationships really do matter and showing your care is important.

Think also about your values and how these shape your culture

Relationship rules of engagement

We have four rules that govern the development of great relationships. As you look through this list really challenge yourself on just one area you can enhance to make your relationships sing.

Rule 1. Be interested.

The biggest gift you can give someone when you are virtual is to be present. Really present. Turn off your phone and notifications and focus on them. I know that it can be difficult at times – sometimes I have my children walking in on a call or the cats on the desk or even the dogs bark when the delivery driver comes and that’s ok, to an extent. Do what you can to minimise these disruptions. And really challenge yourself to be present when you are reading something from one of your team members. We have come across many cases of friction in relationships where the root cause was a misread email, text or Whatsapp!

Rule 2. Be interesting

Inject your own passion and fun into your conversations – build rapport and a conversation not just question and answer

Rule 3. Follow up

Spend just a few minutes later to acknowledge the conversation in whatever method works for you and sharing what you got out of the conversation. This will show you really valued the time you both spent.

Rule 4. Keep your promises

Do everything you said you are going to do when you said you were going to do this. This has two benefits. Firstly it builds trust which is such an essential component in relationships. Secondly it forces you to really consider what you commit to so you don’t over promise. If you know you will have to do it, you are much more realistic about what you can practically achieve and this reinforces how reliable you are. And be mindful that some people will hear or even read, “I will…” as you saying you’ve promised, even though you haven’t said the phrase, “I promise!”

So which one are you going to work on?

Give permission

If you really want a high performing culture in which collaboration is full throttle you need to be explicit with your team that you want them to do this too. People might want to do it but might feel that they shouldn’t take time away from their day job. Show them it’s important.

Often seemingly small gestures that don’t cost a lot make a huge difference. So be that difference who makes a difference. Show them you believe relationships matter.