When I first started working at my company, another fellow began his employment about the same time. Because of our two jobs, and because I was supporting others, I was frequently in the position of making requests for him to do work on my customers behalf. And I would sometimes ask him when something would be done. (I tried to do this respectfully and without pressure.) One time, I guess he was tired of my requests, and he said, “If I have to keep responding to your questions about when it will be done, I won’t have time to do it.”
This was a good lesson for me. I realized I would be working with him for quite a while and therefore needed to foster a good working relationship. And I did that. I would ask him about his hobbies, which were quite interesting. And I took advantage of his knowledge and learned from him.
Twenty years later, I was again in a position of asking for something. In this case, it was an emergency request. It would normally take 2–3 weeks at best, but I had less than two hours. I called on him to help. Using his knowledge and experience and connections, he somehow made it happen in about 90 minutes. I was grateful.
And this is an important lesson: you cannot wait until a crisis to nourish your relationships with your co-workers.
Building relationships with your co-workers is the most important aspect of business. You spend more time with them than anyone else so you need to make sure you are intentionally and conscientiously fostering your bonds with them.
How do we do this? In no particular order, here are some ways:
- Seek out the wisdom of others. There is a saying, “Every (person) is my teacher.” By learning from others, you create an opportunity for them to give you the gift of their knowledge.
- Go to the other person’s place. People appreciate you making the effort to visit.
- Never let a day go by without telling someone you appreciate her or him.
- Be an example. Don’t ask others to do things you would not do yourself.
- Always use the highest bandwidth. Talking in-person is better than talking on the phone which is better than text which is better than email. Oh, and hand-written notes are much-appreciated.
- Return calls promptly. Folks greatly appreciate this.
- Take a personal interest in others. People love to have the opportunity to talk about their family, pets, and hobbies, and you’ll learn things too.
- Be proactive in relationships. Don’t worry about who takes the initiative.
- Always be positive. Folks will feel better about being with you if you are positive.
- Finally, and most importantly, put principles above personalities. Decide what is most important to you, and live that way regardless of whether you like someone or not.
Regarding this last point, a few years ago I was struggling with a work relationship. One day, I had to sit down and figure out just what were the most important characteristics I wanted to have. This came down to:
a. I cannot allow myself to compromise my integrity.
b. I must be completely honest.
c. Always put people before things.
d. Never be a victim.
Now, when I have a challenging relationship, I know that if I hold on to this principles, I will be able to keep a clear conscience.
At the end of your days, your friendships at work will be spread out like a field of diamonds, and you will know that you’ve made a difference.