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Positive Working Relationships: Why They Matter & How to Develop Them

  • Post category:Leadership
  • Reading time:8 mins read

As a new manager, meeting your new team can give you the willies. You want to ensure that the meeting runs smoothly. You also want to establish your leadership. However, you want to do so without destroying the team’s culture. You also want to make sure that you don’t put down their achievements. Things can turn sour if you’re too heavy-handed, and the same goes if you fail to establish the proper degree of authority. However, an informal gathering can function as a great opportunity to learn about your team when done correctly. Furthermore, you can also develop trust and lay the groundwork for a positive working relationship.

In this article, we’ll discuss how to prepare for your first meeting with your new team. If you follow these five steps, you’ll not only make the meeting count. You’ll also start to develop positive working relationships with your team.

Research Your New Team

If your company has a corporate intranet with employee profiles, read up on your team’s professional backgrounds. This will demonstrate to your team that you value it enough to spend time learning about them before the meeting. If you can’t find this data on the intranet, talk to your HR department. They will likely have photos and background information on the new members of your team. You can always click over to LinkedIn if all else fails.

Using this data, try to memorize people’s faces, names, and hometowns. It’s amazing how much of a difference this can make when you first meet your team in terms of forging positive working relationships. You should also make an effort to learn how to pronounce their names too correctly!

If at all possible, schedule a meeting with your boss and the team’s previous manager. You’ll want to discuss the team’s strengths and weaknesses in this meeting before you take on your new role. It also doesn’t hurt to dive into any behavioral issues or conflicts that you should know about before starting your new role.

Get to Know the Culture to Develop Positive Working Relationships

If you’re working with teams from other national or religious backgrounds, try to be sensitive to any potential differences. This is where your cultural intelligence will provide a great base for working in any multicultural workspace. If you’re not familiar with the concept, cultural intelligence involves using observation, empathy and helps lay a sturdy foundation for a positive working relationship.

You want to be mindful of your company’s wider corporate culture as you prepare to meet your team, whether it’s formal – with clearly defined lines of communication and decision-making processes – or more informal. Doing so will help you to act appropriately in your first meeting and communicate more effectively. Again, if at all possible, talk with the team’s previous leader about their take on the company’s culture. This will give you a good sense of the beliefs and behaviors that you’ll likely encounter.

Tip: Members of your team could very well be former co-workers. This sort of dynamic can be difficult and may require you to reset your working relationship. This should be done separately from the introductory meeting not to muddy up any issues that surface. Be prepared for any potential issues, though.

Ready the Meeting Space

Positive Working Relationships-Meeting Space

If you’re fortunate enough to hold your first meeting in person, you should choose a neutral space, such as a meeting or conference room. You will also want to consider the seating arrangement, temperature, and lighting. You should aim to make the overall environment as comfortable as possible. Doing so will help reduce stress, encourage honest communication, and help you take the first step towards establishing positive working relationships with your new team.

If you opt for a virtual meeting instead of a face-to-face meeting, you need to consider several factors. Online meetings still require time to organize, and technical issues are a common occurrence. Let’s be real here – how many times have you experienced the “I can see you, but I can’t hear you” issue during a virtual meeting?

Regardless of whether the meeting is in person or virtual, you should arrive a few minutes early. Doing so allows you to prep the room or troubleshoot any technical issues.

Tip: There are multiple things you can do to ensure that your virtual meeting runs smoothly. For instance, you can ask everyone to “arrive” a few minutes early to make sure that you start on time. Another big one is to ask people to mute themselves when they’re not speaking. Here are a few more virtual meeting tips.

Keep It Short and Casual

Positive Working Relationships-Casual Conversation

Before kicking things off, let your team know that it will be a short and casual gathering.

Once everyone is settled in, explain a bit about yourself. This is a great opportunity to employ business storytelling to share your values and what you hope to achieve. Make sure you don’t do a deep dive into your plans at this point. You can save the specifics for a meeting later on down the road in a more formal meeting.

Make sure that you mention that you plan to arrange one-on-one meetings with each member of the team. These individual meetings are an essential step in developing positive working relationships with your team. You’ll also want to inform your team that there will be a formal meeting for the entire team following the one-on-one meetings.

Furthermore, make it clear that you’ll spend the first 90 days learning all you can about the team and how it works. Acknowledge that you will likely want to make some changes. However, you will refrain from doing so until you know for certain what’s working and what isn’t working.

A Quick Win Helps Forge Positive Working Relationships

One of the smartest moves a manager can make when stepping into a new role is to look for a “quick win.” You want to improve some aspect of the team, but try to do so without making any major changes to the team’s current systems or processes. After all, you want to respect the current systems and processes since they may have taken years to develop. Furthermore, the current systems and processes may be working better than you realize.

Learning About Your Team is a Great Way to Develop Positive Working Relationships

You should dedicate the rest of the meeting to learning about your new team. Give each team member a chance to ask questions. If they’re interested in your background, they’ll ask. Make sure to answer any questions in their entirety. However, you also want to show humility by guiding the conversation towards your shared goals rather than dwelling on your personal accomplishments.

When all is said and done, you want your team to take away the following three points:

  1. You’re glad to be here and you respect the work that the team does.
  2. Assure your team that you’re not there to cause stress or to make their jobs more difficult.
  3. You’re here to put the team first and to set each team member up for success.

Tip: It’s only natural to want to be accommodating with your new team. However, be careful not to get carried away and make a promise that you can’t deliver. Doing so will cause more harm than good in terms of forging positive working relationships.

Model Best Behavior

What you do in your first meeting with your team will establish the tone of your leadership. With that in mind, you need to create a pleasant working environment in which respect and manners are valued.

Make sure you take care of the obvious things: arrive on time, dress appropriately, and use professional language. Furthermore, ensure that you give your team your full and undivided attention. This means switching your phone to silent mode or even turning it off completely.

Tip: Remember that your body language is equally important as what you actually say. Adopt an open posture and avoid accidental nervous ticks, such as tapping your fingers on the table. Your team can misconstrue this as a sign of impatience.

Small Talk is Essential in Making Positive Working Relationships

Positive Working Relationships-Small Talk

The art of small talk is a fundamental building block of forming positive working relationships.

People remember how you make them feel, rather than the specifics of what you actually said. That being said, asking your team to talk about their best moments will create positive associations. Doing so will also reveal a lot about your team’s values.

Make sure you practice active listening when the other party is speaking. This is where you make a genuine effort to understand the complete message by staying focused on what the speaker is saying. It’s also helpful if you keep tabs on their tone and body language. Whatever you do, avoid the temptation of thinking about your response. This is the opposite of active listening.

A great way to build trust is to share something about yourself. This shows the other party that you’re willing to open up by being the first to give something away. You should encourage others to join in the conversation. However, you don’t want to force anyone to leave their comfort zone. First impressions are huge, so make it a point not to embarrass anyone on your new team.

Andrew Roche

Andrew Roche is a Digital Consultant at Shift Digital. He is also pursuing an MBA in Marketing & Finance through the Mike Ilitch School of Business at Wayne State University

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