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Build Skilled Relationships

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Define skilled relationship.
  • Develop a team agreement.
  • Explain work styles.
  • Follow best practices to develop skilled relationships.

What Is a Skilled Relationship?

As we watch toddlers develop, we see how they start to recognize emotions in others and begin to use patience instead of throwing tantrums to get their way. Around the age of two, they begin to show more empathy. These are the same skills we need to mature and develop as we progress into adulthood.  

To relate well with others we need to remain calm and control our emotional outbursts. In order to develop what we're calling skilled relationships, it’s important to practice self-awareness, self-management, and empathy. 

The more we practice, the better we get at developing trust, inspiring others, and solving problems together—this is what makes up a skilled relationship.

Agree on the Basics

Throughout this module, we call out how EI skills build off one another. First, you need to be aware of yourself and what you’re feeling. Then, you focus on managing your emotional response and decide on how best to react in a situation. These two steps help you practice empathy. 

With all of these skills in play, you’re in the best position to work successfully with your team. One of the first things you may recognize is that your teammates have different feelings about work, different work styles, and so on. To help everyone meet their potential, it’s best to come up with a team agreement. 

It’s like a job description for the entire team, describing successful behavior and guarding against actions that can harm team morale. Each team agreement is different because each team is different. But they all answer specific questions.

Below is a handy table to help you create an agreement with your team, with questions and possible follow-up questions to get to the right level of clarity. You may need to incorporate different questions not included here. Consider this a start.

Team Agreement Questions Follow-Up questions

How do we work together?

  • Are there tools that help us work together? If so, what’s the best way to use them?
  • What are the roles?
  • Do we need to consider different time zones?

What does success look like?

  • Are there specific metrics we should track?
  • What do we do if we make a mistake?
  • Are there blockers, best, and worst possible scenarios we can anticipate?

How do we agree and disagree?

  • What forums (one-on-one, team stand-ups) should we use to address conflicts we have with each other?
  • Should we include project milestones where we stop to reflect and address disagreements or challenges with better data?

How do we decide who plays which role?

  • Do tasks align well with our formal job descriptions?
  • Are there areas where each person needs to stretch and do things outside of their job or comfort zone?
  • How do we support one another to ensure everyone can succeed in their roles?

How do we develop trust?

  • Should we include times to break away from the work and do something fun as a team?
  • What does respect for each others’ work look like?

With the team agreement, you develop a work environment where the following are possible.

  • Coming together as a team
  • Trusting one another
  • Having room to make mistakes and learn from them
  • Seeing value in diversity of opinions
  • Willingness to take on new tasks and roles to get the work done

A virtual team meeting with each teammate on screen and one highlighted, making an inspiring suggestion causing everyone to smile

When employees feel they are trusted and are key to the success of an organization—that they’re encouraged to make suggestions, innovate, share their experience and wisdom—they have a better chance to make more of an impact and drive success. 

Recognize Work Styles

As you incorporate your team agreement, it’s important to recognize each teammate’s work style and preferences. The better aligned people are with their work style, the more they get done and the greater sense of fulfillment they experience.

Teammates talking about work with a laptop open on a table

Work can be organized into three categories.  

  • Tasks
  • Coordination and communication activities
  • Organizational activities

Tasks
Those who prefer tasks enjoy touching the product or service. They often work well on their own. Examples of tasks include writing, welding, auditing, design, inspecting, repair, and research.

Coordination and Communication Activities
Those who prefer coordinating and communicating work enjoy working with others. They may consider themselves as successful when they help others succeed. Examples include coaching, delegating, mentoring, coordinating, teaming, communications, advising, and facilitating.

Organizational Activities
Those who prefer organizational work activities are drawn to work that involves planning, influencing the organization, or advocating for resources. Other examples include advising, managing, and directing.

There are also people who move easily between different work activities. The key is to do the best we can to align people to roles that meet their work style and give them room to grow at a reasonable pace. 

Develop Skilled Relationships

Now that you have the right questions to ask and an understanding of different work styles, here are some guidelines for developing positive, healthy relationships at work.

  1. Accept and celebrate a diverse workplace. As we mature and grow wiser, we recognize that everyone is not like us. The next step is to embrace those differences and find value in them. Supporting a diverse workforce with a variety of work styles can create a richer and more productive workplace.
  2. Develop active listening skills. Active listening is the foundation for avoiding miscommunication as well as resolving conflicts. We want to hear what the other person is saying and want to understand the situation, as discussed in Emotional Intelligence.
  3. Expand other communication skills. Become aware of your habits and how they impact the way you communicate. Do those you lead believe you want them to succeed? How do they know you support them? Do you involve them in potential change or do you spring it on them and expect compliance? How well do you argue for the resources your team needs to succeed? Do you see conflict as opportunity?
  4. Take time to support those you lead. Take a little time to let your teammates know that you're there to take care of them and help ensure that they succeed.
  5. Manage technology and anticipate its impact. Technology impacts the workplace. For example, smartphones and tablets have had a huge impact on the economy, on how work gets done, on the mental and emotional well-being of millions. Anticipate changes, as best you can, and help prepare those you work with and lead to address them.
  6. Share your wisdom and invite the wisdom of others. There’s a reason you have the role you do. Share the wisdom you’ve gained through your experience and make it available to your teammates. At the same time, recognize their wisdom and experience, and encourage them to give you feedback.
  7. Develop honesty and trust. You trust those you lead and encourage them to be honest with each other and with you. You demonstrate this by being honest with them. Develop that sense of mutual respect and an environment where everyone can be honest without fear of retribution and you have a potentially powerful workforce.

Which guidelines above deserve your attention? Here’s one more powerful guideline that has emerged from virtually every culture for thousands of years. Treat people as you would like to be treated yourself.

Elevate Your Emotional Intelligence Practice

Throughout this trail, we give you the what and why of emotional intelligence (EI). We call this horizontal development—or filling your brain with knowledge. Think of this like pouring water in a cup.

On top of that, we give you practical exercises and best practices to follow. The goal is for you to start putting your EI skills into action, and to get better over time. This is vertical development—embodying the four key areas of EI: self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy, and skilled relationships. Think of this like expanding your cup.

An expanding cup with water pouring into it from a pitcher

As you grow in your career and practice responding to situations with EI, you may notice some things come naturally to you. At the same time, challenges you experience bring about different ways of seeing a situation or solving a problem. This is when your cup expands.

The best thing to do is to embrace your EI journey and regularly take time to stop, reflect, and consider how you can best move forward.

Want to Learn More?

This module and the Emotional Intelligence module were developed in collaboration with Arizona State University to introduce you to the elements of emotional intelligence. If you want to learn more, explore Arizona State University’s online course on emotional intelligence.

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