One at a time they spoke. As each person in the circle shared the impact of the last several months, I felt the goose bumps rise up and warmth begin to radiate outward from somewhere in my core. The first said, "I am working on taking special care each morning by dressing professionally to improve my self-confidence,” and the next, "I have to manage my optimism...I can be a model to others by having a positive attitude at work." One by one, they shared how they were stepping into a different relationship with themselves and each other until finally, a soft spoken man, who I had heard speak out on rare occasions over the past four months, shared the impact he had recently experienced with his son, a sweet story of sharing his heart and his concern. "It is not my way to rock the boat...I step back instead of stepping into conflict. But what I've learned from this is that my son valued me sharing what I felt. I had a conversation with my boss too...if I don't say what's on my mind, how can I be disappointed when things don't turn out?"
The conversation I just described happened after four, one-day sessions at monthly intervals on emotional intelligence skills, collaboration in partnerships, conflict resolution, and all of it culminated in teaming to include designing agreements or what some call a team relationship contract. A relationship contract is at the heart of how to build trust because it creates a structure to minimize assumptions and maximize all members expressing what they need from each other to work co-actively. It is a way to intentionally practice relation management.
With the team members above, they were able to link team values, like respect, to an agreement of how they would communicate with each other. Having the conversation about respect, including group members defining their perspective on what makes them feel disrespected, creates a vision of how the team will operate and how they will respond to each other when they let each other down. Other examples of agreements the team set were; provide each other feedback, assume positive intent, and holding confidential all group discussions.
Discovering how others want to be communicated with, sharing your communication needs, and agreeing with where you must compromise takes time. Ideally, we start new relationships by setting relationship ground rules, this is true for both work teams and managers with individual team members. We build trust by making and keeping commitments. We redesign relationship contracts when we let each other down by perceived missed commitments or a signal that the relationship is ready to go to the next level. We are always in the dance of designing relationships. The question is: are we stepping all over our partner’s feet or are we moving in sync to the beat of our shared mission?
After listening to my soft spoken friend share his victory both at home with his son and at work with his boss I felt complete. I will miss being in the presence of this courageous team who continues to amaze me with their courage, conviction, tenacity and willingness to step in the fire with each other over and over again for the sake of serving their customers.
Opportunity dances with those who are already on the dance floor. -Jackson Browne
If you want to learn more about improving workplace relationships by designing team or coaching agreements, please contact me at 303-238-9733 or email me at email@example.com.
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Deb Siverson is a seasoned executive coach, certified as a PCC through the International Coach Federation. If you want to schedule time to discuss how you or your organization can increase engagement by having a different conversation at work, contact us now.