A few days ago, I posted Part 1 of my talk with Jenny Tieman, a relationship counselor. We discussed the importance of meaning when it comes to sustaining passion and engagement in our careers; today in Part 2, we’ll talk about how we can transform our professional relationships and even our organizations.

Jenny, today I’d like to talk more about our relationships with clients and colleagues. In romantic partnerships, we choose our partners based on a certain affinity and attraction – but we don’t have that kind of choice in our coworkers and we sometimes have nothing in common with them.

Well, as we discussed earlier, people take their relationships for granted and prioritize everything else. That’s especially true with professional relationships, yet they’re often the ones that need the most work. All too often we focus on project milestones, revenue reports, anticipated scoreboard results. Yet people are the engine that makes those results happen – and if we don’t deal positively and effectively with each other, those deliverables will be impacted.

So what’s your specific advice for fostering good relationships?

First, set your intention to be positive. Resolve to leave any negativity or petty stuff outside the room. Maybe there’s a grudge in the air or a rivalry; put that to the side. Secondly, remember that these people are doing the best they can. Assume positive intent, rather than jumping to negative conclusions. Look at your coworkers as capable and competent people. By focusing on their value, rather than how they’re doing something differently than you might do it, you and the rest of the team are likely to stay connected and committed and achieve better results.

And when someone around you is overwhelmed? Don’t focus on the occasional sharp word or mistake. Instead, see their struggle as a learning opportunity for the organization. Step back and see what needs to change for a smoother and more efficient and productive process. Then talk about a shift in roles from that perspective – not as an attack on the overwhelmed person.

That’s great advice. What about cultural differences? This is where many of my clients want to improve as their companies expand globally.

Over the years, I’ve worked with clients from many cultures – Arabic, Eastern Europe, Central American, just to name a few. And what I’ve found helpful is focusing on what they find beautiful and meaningful in their cultures. By opening that dialogue, we come to an understanding and mutual respect that helps us work together effectively. I’ve found the same principle in cross-cultural workforces – rather than parachuting into a new culture and just focusing on the business at hand, global leaders benefit from finding out what matters to their new colleagues. What are their values, where is the significance and beauty in their lives? That transforms a transactional relationship into a deeper and more productive one.

So how can organizations as a whole benefit from these principles? A few companies are exploring the rewards of mindfulness, but most organizations are still focused on external deliverables and ignore the relationship side of business.

What needs to happen is, corporate culture needs to think past profit. They need to ask themselves, “Why are we doing this?” Because just as people lose sight of who they are in their relationships and careers, companies often lose sight of what they are doing. They become so driven by profit that they develop a sense that nothing else matters. Ask them what they’re about and they can’t tell you. But once they reconnect with their purpose, it alters the way the leadership and the workforce think about their products, their jobs, their brand and their future.

Companies are also catching on to the benefits of adopting a holistic perspective on health. That approach makes people healthier, more positive about work, and they take fewer sick days and bring more creativity to their jobs. There are huge benefits institutionally. Once leaders explore this and see the results, they actually wind up proselytizing to others.

Thanks for the insights, Jenny. You’ve certainly brought a fresh perspective to the conversation around workplace relationships and how we can all experience more meaning and engagement in our careers. Readers, how do you encourage your team to connect with their sense of purpose? What works for you in building positive professional relationships? Please share in the comments.

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