In this series we've been addressing the question, "How can I become a more effective manager?" We've been uncovering the 10 steps to mighty management, and have addressed the first three here. Now we'll move onto...
Thought #4: Take Interest in Others (even in those that don’t work for you)
Not many of us work totally independently in our organization. Even though it may feel that way at times, in almost every case our work has an effect on another department. Imagine how many problems could be avoided if we were to develop relationships with people in ALL areas of the company. Ok, some organizations may be too large for that, but what about with the groups that work most closely with ours? Investing in relationships across the organization can pay off in spades.
At my last job we created a Customer Experience Team with the goal of evaluating processes in light of how it FELT to be our customer. In establishing this team, we drew from people across all departments that had any interface with the customer or who supported others in the organization that did. During our first meeting, in trying to understand the goals of this new project, a member of the Accounting team mentioned a challenge that she was experiencing. Immediately, we recognized that it was an issue that we could almost eradicate if we made a small tweak at the start of the process with the Business Development team, ultimately saving the organization time and money, and this particular woman from much frustration. All of this stemmed from forming a cross-functional team based on formerly established solid relationships. She wouldn’t have been so willing to share if we didn’t already have a bond of trust.
So often, our natural state is to be on the defensive when interacting with other groups. When I was working as a Business Development Director, I had a great relationship with the Operations Director, which was vital because the natural state for my group was to say yes to as much as we possibly could to the customer to win business, and the natural state of his group was to say no to keep things sane. That’s not wrong or bad. There should be a natural friction between those two parts of the organization, and that same friction can easily be applied to many other groups as well. The result can be that things fall apart quickly when there is no firmly established relationship between the teams. However, because we took the time to get to know each other and develop a relationship built on trust, those times of natural opposition worked well for the organization as we challenged each other instead of butting heads. In the end we typically came up with a solution that was a healthy choice for the company, the customer, and our teams.
TAKE ACTION: Evaluate the time are you intentionally investing into building relationship with other departments or individuals that you interact with? Consider making it a part of your weekly task list to stop by and visit for 5-10 minutes with key players. In the beginning this may come off as suspicious, but in time you should be able to nurture the relationship to a better place. If you feel like you don’t have time, challenge yourself to consider how much time you spend in resolving difficult issues between your team and theirs, and how a strong relationship might avoid those situations or help them to resolve faster.
Kirsten Smith, founder of Made to Thrive Consulting has over 20 years Business Development and Management experience with small and large organizations alike, including those listed among the Fortune 500.
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