PI Inspire: Improve a relationship

Understanding yourself and others.

When people understand their similarities and differences—and they’ve negotiated the best ways of working together—magic happens.

Working with someone similar to yourself is intuitive. But, when the person you’re working with is different than you, it takes deliberate effort to change your own behavior so that you interact with them effectively. For example, If you like to talk things out, you may need to resist the urge to pop over to someone’s desk and interrupt them and, instead, book time to talk privately.

In most organizations, employees lack the necessary people data insights to work together at their best. Without that data, employees don’t have critical awareness regarding their workplace behaviors. This means they inadvertently create communication problems, conflict, and even organizational toxicity.

When any two people in an organization collaborate, they are able to share resources, skills, knowledge, and abilities in mutually beneficial ways. Two people not only can do twice the amount of work; they can do things together that would not be possible if they worked in isolation. These benefits don’t happen automatically or without risk of friction.

There are four steps that will help make sure everyone is set up to have a productive relationship.

Conduct a thoughtful review of each person’s strengths and potential pitfalls. Then, provide each person with the other’s profile of strengths and potential caution areas. This type of transparency and mutual understanding establishes a foundation of awareness and builds trust.

Look for areas where the two parties are significantly different from one another in terms of their behavioral preferences and natural strengths.

For example, if one co-worker is detail-oriented while the other is spontaneous, it’s important to surface this competing style. Otherwise, if each acts solely in line with their nature, the interpersonal dynamic may become strained. It’s important to point out to both employees that neither style is right or wrong, and neither is good or bad. They’re simply different and must be equally understood and respected.

Many times, two people will be pursuing respective objectives that compete with one another in some way. A common example in organizations are the competing goals of innovation and adaptation vs. stability and control. If one party is working to discover new ways of doing things while the other party is working to maintain high levels of quality, efficiency, and predictability, then these objectives compete with one another and the natural friction may spill over into the interpersonal dynamic.

The best time to sow the seeds of a productive relationship is when it is a new relationship. Before the partnering work begins, execute the above steps. After creating a thorough understanding of respective strengths and any competing styles or goals, the parties can discuss how they will conduct their work together.

For example, one party may be extremely extroverted and prefer to “think aloud” while the other is more introverted and prefers time in quiet isolation to generate and process ideas. Under this circumstance, how can you help the two parties come to some agreement about how they will interact before the real work begins? By coming to a mutual agreement, the pair will be able to refer back to it when pressure inevitably builds, deadlines loom, and individuals tend to revert to their natural behavioral styles.

If conflict arises between any two co-workers during the course of their work, it’s possible to “reset the relationship.” If possible, change the setting by bringing the parties to a new, neutral location. Revisit the natural strengths of each person and look for competing styles and competing values that have begun to affect their collaboration. Help them redefine and recommit to their negotiated ways of working well together, then ask them to hold one another accountable to honoring that agreement.

Taking action

Best practice is to review a person’s Behavioral Assessment results during their onboarding and revisiting it as needed. The more information you can get to proactively manage a person based on their needs (and yours) the better. You can also use the Relationship Guide to see where you and that person have strengths, cautions, and get some tips on how to work well with them. This can help prepare you for 1:1 meetings, performance reviews, and any other conversations and interactions you know that person will have with you or other colleagues.

Inevitably, you’ll see instances where an individual’s behavior runs counter to your expectations. When this happens, act swiftly. Speak with this individual quickly. Failing to confront these situations will send mixed messages to the broader team or organization and undermine performance and engagement as a result. Despite the discomfort associated with addressing the problem, the broader business and organizational welfare needs to come first. Take action or prepare to address a much bigger problem later on.

Continue learning

Here are some additional resources on this topic.

To inform us of a typo or other error, click here. To request a new feature, click here.