How to Build Productive Relationships Posted on 19 Aug 14:42 , 0 comments

Team Meeting

As I was getting ready for work this morning thoughts of this newsletter kept rolling around in my head.

I really wanted to send it out today but I still hadn’t identified the perfect story to kick it off.  

The subject of Productive Relationships could fill a book (or indeed the chapter of the book I’m currently writing) and I have so many examples of Productive and Unproductive relationships to talk about but none of them were rocking my world.

Then, as I was about to walk out my front door I caught sight of my washing machine.

“Eeeek!  I haven’t put the washing on- Michael will kill me.” I forgot to do it yesterday and knew I couldn't forget again.  We are flying to Queensland tomorrow!

My husband is my most important Productive Relationship and I was letting our team down.  

We divide our home chores based on strengths and have developed "team habits" over the last 22 years.

He’s a fabulous cook having previously worked as a Chef, and thus his domain is the kitchen (I’m not really allowed behind the counter as I've food poisoned him a couple of times).  

He’s also a genius with multimedia and thus takes care of all of our audio and visual needs (whereas I often need help to turn on the TV).

I’m not really what you’d call a domestic goddess so I take on the chores with the least risk.

The laundry (darks in the morning and whites at night), the rubbish, the bathrooms and floors plus communication with our financial partners (e.g. our lovely accountant and amazing financial adviser who I know will read this- hello team!).  

Our house runs like a well oiled machine,  (As long as I remember the washing!!)

A productive relationship is a partnership that achieves outcomes.

If you think about your relationships, they’ll fall somewhere on a scale of warmth and productivity and fall within these four categories.

Warm and productive (Optimal)
Warm but not productive (Social)
Cold and productive (Stressful)
Cold and unproductive (Broken)

How productive are your relationships?  Where do they fall on the scales above?  

There is more to be said on this fascinating topic.  This week we focus on how to communicate with your partners to get the best possible outcome.  We will pick this topic up again in later newsletters.  

Ideally, I’d love you to think about one or two relationships you have and identify ways you can make them more productive, focus on these over the next week and let me know how you go.  

1. Seek to understand before you seek to be understood.

If you remember nothing from this newsletter remember the above quote from Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  

Every time I am working my way through a relationship issue (after my ego has done it's thing by putting me there in the first place) I remind myself to try and understand the other party.
This principle is all about understanding the person you are building a relationship with before you try to put your point of view forward.  
Why this works:  When you make sure you understand someone before you put your point of view forward or offer them a solution, you are more likely to communicate the information they need to know and encourage reciprocal respect and achieve win/win solutions. 

You create a relationship which is based upon empathy and you can work together towards the best possible solution for both parties.
How to do it:  Ask questions and use empathetic listening.  
For instance, if a colleague is asking you to do work that will take you several hours, causing you to work late, ask them what the problem is that they are looking to solve with the requested work.  Once you’ve gotten to the heart of the matter you will likely be able to meet them half way, solving their problem without the additional hours added to your week.  

2. Communicate with people based on their thinking style. 

In our productivity programs, one of the first things I establish is whether the person I am working with is an introvert or an extrovert, and what the thinking styles are of their manager, team and key stakeholders.
The answers can guide both the way you interact with others and your personal working style.
For instance I am an introvert.  Although I love meeting with lots of different people and delivering workshops to large audiences, I feel physically drained afterwards.  Thus, I need time alone after I’ve had a lot of social interactions to restore my energy.
In contrast, I once made an extroverted employee sit in an office for a full day in order to complete an important project she’d been procrastinating on, and by the end of the day she was almost scratching at the walls.  She needed to interact with others to recharge between tasks.
Extroverts like to bounce their ideas off other people, they tend to “think with their mouths” and get energy from interacting with others.  Introverts prefer to think things through before putting forward their position.  If you push them to make a decision by backing them into a corner they will probably “come out fighting”.  (Note: Ambiverts tend to need both quiet time and social time to restore their energy).
Why this works:  When you communicate with someone in a manner that compliments their thinking style, you’re more likely to make them feel more comfortable as you are providing the perfect conditions for them to make the best possible decisions.
How to do it:  Let introverts think.  Let extroverts talk.  
These days, with so many people being familiar with the traits made famous via Jung and Myer’s Briggs, if you ask someone whether they are an introvert or an extrovert, they’ll usually know.  If it’s not appropriate to ask, look for clues. 

Do they prefer to bounce ideas off you, or do they seem to prefer to think things through?  Do they prefer large group interactions (like meetings) or do they gravitate towards email or one-on-one discussions?
If you’re building a relationship with an extrovert, ask them questions, let them talk through concepts and bounce ideas off you when you are working towards decisions.  
When working with introverts don’t put them on the spot.  They usually prefer to have agenda’s prior to meetings and like to gather their thoughts and prepare for discussions.  Give them the information they need to make a decision, and the time and space to think things through.
Misunderstandings so often occur when extroverts think introverts should think on their feet more, or when introverts think extroverts should stop changing their minds.  Understand one another’s thinking style and you are better equipped to provide both communicators with their needs.  And thus, gain greater productivity!

3. Communicate with people based upon their communication style.

When I wrote about email communication a couple of weeks ago, I talked about tailoring your message to the communication needs of your audience.
Why this works:  Most of us prefer to communicate based upon our own communication preferences, but in doing so we’re likely alienating 75% of the people we talk to due to providing too much, too little or the wrong detail.
How to do it:  Make sure you provide people with the information that is most important to them when communicating messages.  When you are communicating to an audience, ensure you’ve covered the “why”, “what”, “how”, “what if” and (where relevant) the “when”.
When you are communicating one-on-one provide the person with the information that matters to them the most.  In group settings you'll need to hit every note knowing that you'll reach everyone at different points in your presentation.  
“Why”: “Why” people want to know why things are done.
Most of us will want to know why you need us to work with you on something.  People who are strong “why” people however, will procrastinate or simply not do a task if they don’t understand why it should be done.  
“What”:  “What” people tend to be focused on outcomes.  
They often don’t care about how things will be done, and frankly, often find it annoying when you go into too much detail because you are insulting their intelligence.  They don’t want to waste their time talking about things they don’t need to know, or already know.
When you are talking to “what” people you should start with the end in mind.  What is the result you’re trying to achieve and what have you done to get there?  What do you need from them? 

If something goes wrong, don’t bore a “what” person with the detail, just tell them what happened and what you’re going to do about it.  
If they want more information they will ask for it.  
“How”: “How” people tend to be more detailed communicators and want to talk about process.  
Operations Managers tend to be “How” people.  
If you’re a “What” person you’ll tend to be the person who “dumps and runs” when you delegate tasks.  “How” people will struggle with this because they want to know how you’d like them to perform the task. 
How people will also want to give you a lot of information when they are explaining something.  If this is you, watch to see if the people you are talking to have glazed eyes.  Take it as a sign to stick to the headlines, you’re probably talking to a “what” person and you're boring them with too much information.  
“What if”: “What if” people tend to be future focused.  
“What if” people tend to have their eyes on the blue skies ahead.  Well ahead.

It can be a bit annoying to speak to them sometimes as you want to tell them about a decision you need them to make now, whereas they are going on about what could happen five years down the track based on the decision or the endless possibilities you've not thought about.  
If you’ve worked with a blue sky thinker—a “What If” person—you’ll know what I mean. These are the people who start with the end in mind and then reverse engineer a solution.   As compared to "What" people their end thought is future focused.  They see things that most of us don't and see further then any of us care to.
If you have them working for you and with you, use them to identify creative opportunities to disrupt your market as they will see what no one else cares to.  
Start with possibilities.  Say, “I have a decision to make and it can lead to this down the track”.  Talk about possibilities and risks and guide them back to the now rather than starting with the decision and following their strategic minds down the proverbial (and often unproductive) rabbit hole.
Of course we all display these attributes in different strengths.  Building productive relationships is all about understanding each other's strengths and leveraging off them to achieve common goals.  

Create opportunities to collaborate using the thinking style of each person effectively, and communicate with people based on their strengths and what is important to them.

Which of these techniques will help you to deepen the relationships you've identified need work?

What is your secret to building productive relationships?

The pac executive team is passionate about helping our clients build productive relationships, and develop into successful teams. Visit our website to find out how we can help you and your team achieve optimal productivity.