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Small, yet Powerful, Ways to Build Relationships at Work

In talking about what great leaders do, Margaret Wheatley said, "In organizations, real power and energy is generated through relationships. The patterns of relationships and the capacities to form them are more important than tasks, functions, roles, and positions." If so, we'd be wise to put a lot more energy into building our work relationships than counting on a title or recognition to change how people respond to us.

Approached sincerely, we can intentionally shift how we interact with others and build stronger work relationships as we do. Below are four ways to build a closer bond with colleagues:

  1. Share what you know.
    Everyone appreciates being "in the know." Therefore, working with an "information hoarder" is not fun. Those who are in the know and keep it to themselves give the distinct impression they are only concerned with themselves and their personal success. Conversely, colleagues who are generous with their knowledge build allies. In showing interest in others knowing as well, they build respect, appreciation, and a clear picture of leadership.
  2. Ask for help when you don't know.
    Sometimes, people stubbornly refuse to admit they don't know the answer. In the process, they can come across as arrogant, over-confident, and disinterested in the talents of others on the team. To admit not knowing, leaders model a willingness to learn and show an appreciation for the talents and contributions of others.
  3. Develop an appreciation for "small talk."
    Being able to converse on big issues is indeed important, but being able to communicate in informal settings using "small talk" has great value, too. Some may see "chit-chat" or "polite conversation" as inconsequential and a time-waster. However, talking about activities and people that matter to others (or interests you both may share) says you care about people, not just work. A 10-minute casual conversation here and there builds the kind of relationships that can withstand stress.
  4. Look for opportunities to do a someone a favor.
    Little generous gestures, especially when you aren't looking for anything in return, builds good will and respect. And when your turn comes to need help, you can bet others will be there for you.
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