The best-kept secret of business: successful relationshipsArticle added by Winn Claybaugh on December 1, 2009
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Winn Claybaugh

Joined: August 21, 2010

I truly believe that a successful company or business is made up of successful relationships between the people who work there. You could walk into a store that has marble floors, amazing displays, award-winning imagery, and a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign, but if there were not successful relationships between the staff members who work there, wouldn't the customer notice? You bet. Do customers want to spend money in that type of store? Probably not.

No matter the size of your company, no matter the product or service you provide, all companies are made up of human beings who work there and who sometimes spend more time together than they spend with their own families. Of course there are jobs to perform and tasks to execute every single day. However -- and here's where businesses often go blind -- a human being is attached to every task that must be performed. I would like to propose that your relationship with those human beings is far more important than getting the task accomplished.

At one of my business locations, we have a catchall storage room commonly referred to as "the dungeon." Anything and everything can end up in the dungeon, and venturing into that room is often preceded with the announcement, "Cover me, I'm going in!"

One of our team members is a clean freak and very task-oriented. On occasion, when he was feeling extra eager, he used attack the dungeon with a vengeance and would resurface hours later, proclaiming it clean and organized. Unfortunately, in the process of "civilizing" the dungeon, he'd exterminate relationships with his fellow workers. In the process of getting the job done, he'd accuse this coworker of making a mess of the dungeon, annoy another person with the drama of cleaning, and belittle another coworker for not offering to pitch in.

Eventually, he'd come to me with the proud announcement, "Look! The dungeon is clean." and I'd respond, "Yeah, but you left 10 people in your wake. Ten people dislike you and detest their jobs. Now that the dungeon is clean, please go back and clean up your relationships."

Let me reemphasize this point: Human beings are attached to every task that must be performed. Your relationship with those human beings is far more important than getting the task accomplished.

One way to build strong relationships, amazing teamwork, and proper communication is to "go in asking." I learned this philosophy from Gene Juarez, a genius of a businessman in Seattle, Washington. Here's how it works:

Oftentimes, we hear secondhand or even third-hand stories about what a team member did or said, and we immediately assume that they're guilty and want to tell them about it. Rather than assuming, judging, or attacking, it's much better to "go in asking." Get together with that person privately and ask about the situation. Don't repeat what you heard, because that only puts them on the defensive and they'll have to address what you've heard rather than the real truth. Say something like, "Would you mind sharing with me what happened the other day?" You must not have any judgment in your voice, and you must go in with total love. Your ultimate goal is to discover the truth firsthand, so the two of you can resolve the situation, learn and grow from the experience, and cultivate a better relationship.

Nine times out of 10, there's another side to the story. If I fail to "go in asking," I usually end up completely offending the person by reprimanding and judging them based on wrong information, and then I have to backpedal and apologize for speaking out prior to knowing the whole story. What a mess! If only I'd gone in asking.

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