I WORK WITH A PERSON who is constantly making mistakes. Every conversation we have is about a problem. I get the feeling that he no longer listens to me. I walk in the room and the guy bristles. How do I problem-solve with a person with whom I have such a one- sided relationship?
It s hard to make it safe to talk about performance gaps when you have no relationship with the other person save for the occasional problem-solving discussion. Like it or not, every relationship has a tipping point. When the majority of your conversations turn into confrontations , the other person starts to wait for the other shoe to drop, no matter the topic, no matter your intent. You cease to be a force other than a nag.
Get to know people under less strained circumstances; it matters a great deal. In fact, three separate studies conducted by the authors revealed that the single best predictor of satisfaction with supervision is frequency of interaction. And if your interactions are infrequent and only about problems, you re really doomed. Every crucial confrontation starts off on the wrong foot . Others only hear your position; they never see you as a person.
So go out of your way to create a wider range of interactions. And when you do interact, feel free to let down your business persona and connect at a personal level. The very first leadership study the authors conducted revealed something rather astonishing. When those who were viewed by senior managers as top performers showed outsiders around their work area, they introduced their employees . They bragged about them. They shared interesting tidbits about their children. Kelvin s son is at the Naval Academy. They had obviously talked about a whole host of topics and developed a personal relationship. Bottom performers, in contrast, showed outsiders the machines and products. They walked right by their people as if they weren t even there.
So develop more full relationships. Take people to lunch . Don t have an agenda, just talk. Walk around and casually chat about topics that interest the other person. And when you see things gone right, recognize people for doing a good job. Become a whole person, and not just a purveyor of problems. Create a healthier context for solving problems when they do come up.
As far as your family is concerned , if you don t take a break from your busy schedules and take your teenagers to lunch, with no purpose other than hanging out together, you ll eventually pass the family tipping point. No matter how wrong they may be or how often they may cause problems ”no matter how called for the confrontations ”at some point you ll be seen as little more than an uncaring nag. Your motive will always be suspect. Your ability to have a broader influence by holding crucial confrontations becomes severely limited. So, don t pass the tipping point. The more often others let you down, the harder you ll have to work to create a well-balanced relationship.