Let me start with a question. Whose responsibility is it to relate well with others, the leader’s or the “other’s”? I want to suggest that, even though both parties have a responsibility, it is up to the leader to take the necessary steps for relating with others. What steps can a leader take to help ensure that they are connecting well with others?
Build rapport. It takes time and intentionality to build rapport with someone. Through good listening and being approachable, you can find a commonality that allows individuals to connect. Connecting with someone is very helpful in relating to them. Through that connection, it is easier to be empathetic when a person shares their point of view.
Once you have built rapport, you can create a safe environment for people to share their viewpoints, even though they might be different than yours. Seeking out those differing views allows you to think more broadly and possibly achieve a perspective you might not have gotten if you hadn’t tried to understand. I had a client tell me one time, “Think about it until you agree with me.” While he was just kidding, that kind of attitude creates an unsafe environment and will shut down opportunities to relate well with others.
Phil Quigley, the former CEO of Pacific Bell, once said, “I don’t think of leadership as a skill. I think of leadership as a relationship.” This attitude allows everyone you work with to feel important and to know their opinion is valued and matters. Thinking of leadership as a relationship magnifies the opportunity to draw out the views of others and to glean more candid, honest input and feedback that you would otherwise not get.
As a servant leader, one of your responsibilities is to meet others where they are. You may need to modify your typical approach, or at some level who you are, to be sure to engage others to relate well with them. Adjusting your standard approach takes humility and emotional intelligence. This self-awareness and ability to adapt are crucial for relating well with others.
When I first came to Interstates, Darrel Ramhorst was my supervisor and mentor. I understood computers and programming, but I didn’t understand PLCs or electricity. Darrel was a master at coming to my level to teach me what I needed to know to be more effective in my role. With his master’s degree in engineering from MIT, it would have been very easy for him to speak well above my head, lose me in the conversation, and frustrate me. (He may have been frustrated, but he didn’t show it!) However, Darrel first understood who I was and where I was. He then adjusted to relate at an appropriate level to learn and grow my understanding of the industry. He was a great example for me. I hope that we will do what we can to become better at relating well with others.
Continue leading the Interstates Way!