What Workplace Relationship Goals Have You Made?

You`ve made your New Year resolutions. You`ve set some goals and created your personal/professional action plan. What`s missing? I often find that goals and objectives are only about completing tasks. A leader’s relationships need to be attended to as well, and it is rare that these are part of their goals.

People want to follow a leader that they respect and trust. It is satisfying for followers to get “things” done. But they depend on you to communicate and steer them in the right direction. And you can`t do this without exceptional communication and great relationships.

Intuitively, we know that relationships are key to leadership. When our workplace relationships are healthy, our organizations flourish, work becomes “flow” and creativity abounds!

Although research into the effect of workplace relationships on the bottom line is scant, I think we`ll see more of it. My prediction is that as more research is done, we`ll see that strong, healthy relationships are a key element in sustainable leadership and sustainable organizations.

Don`t wait until the research is out. Consider including some workplace relationship goals as part of your 2010 goals. Some ideas to get you started:

  • What workplace relationships do you need to consider? Consider your manager, your peers, your employees, your clients and customers. If you are leading a public organization, consider the taxpaying public.
  • Which of these relationships need to be nourished? Like our children and our gardens, our relationships at work need tending. Which relationships do you need to pay more attention to? What will you stop doing, delegate, or re-prioritize in order to make the tending of relationships a priority?
  • What will strong, healthy workplace relationships look like to you? Spend some valuable time reflecting on what great workplace relationships will look like for you. What will you be doing differently when those relationships are fully nourished? What will your manager, peers, employees and organization be doing differently? What bottom-line benefits will be realized?
  • What specific goals do you want to set for specific relationships? Consider individuals, teams, networks you belong to. What would you like to change about how you relate to these? How will you make the personal changes needed? For each ?€“ what is a first step you can take? What is the next step? How will you stay accountable to the changes? What will prevent you from reaching your goals?

What has worked for you in strengthening your workplace relationships?

As a leader you are the role model. Set some goals for your relationships at work that will assure they are healthy and strong, and watch others follow your lead to help create a great place to work.

I am a former executive in a Fortune 100 company. I have owned and operated an executive coaching firm since 2003 called Aspire Collaborative Services LLC. We partner with great leaders to help them become even greater at developing, improving, and sustaining relationships with the people who are essential to their success. This blog is for leaders and those who help them to be more intentional about relationships at work. My top personal values include respect for others, kindness, compassion, collaboration and gratitude. I work very hard at practicing my values daily and when I don’t succeed, I practice some more. I am married with two wonderful daughters and two spoiled pugs.

10 comments on “What Workplace Relationship Goals Have You Made?

  1. Mary-Jo!

    Excellent guidelines for *planning* to build great relationships. Great relationships build great workplaces and people excel in great workplaces.

    You ask: “What has worked for you in strengthening your workplace relationships?”

    Lots of potential answers but here are a few golden nuggets: Humility, attention, and focusing on the positive.


  2. Mary Jo-

    I especially like the part about exceptional communication. Communication is key to forming AND maintaining workplace relationships.

    Taking the extra minute to ask someone how their weekend went or sparking a quick conversation in the copy room has helped me develop relationships with people I don’t normally associate with in the work environment.


  3. Sonia, you have made the wise observation that relationships begin with ourselves. Humility, attention and positivity are great starts – thanks!

    Kevin, your comment to work in “small talk” at is spot on. Many of my clients, introverted leaders by nature, have learned that that there is great (good) power in spending a bit of time developing an using this skill. Thanks for the great addition to this post!

  4. Mary Jo,
    I think you nailed it in discussing communication. I also agree with Kevin’s comment and think it is the “small talk” that really allows relationships to flourish. What advice do you have for followers where the leaders communication skills are lacking?

  5. Kevin, thanks. Boss with poor communication skills? Read “Difficult Conversations” or “Lead Your Boss”, ask for permission to give him or her some feedback, take a deep breath, and provide the feedback using the Situation, Behavior, Impact model. Let me know how it goes!

    Brigette, Thanks for your kind words!

  6. Mary Jo,
    This is a great piece! We forget that tasks are accomplished through people.
    I might add one more thought-starter:
    Whom can I truly benefit this year and how? We often think of ourselves and our organizations as the places where work happens. But sometimes others provide us greater opportunities. Here’s an extreme example: Being married to the Governor, I know she is in an extraordinary position to affect people’s lives. I can do more by contributing to her – in fairly invisible ways – than I can do with “my” goals. Traci Fenton is another person in my sphere. She runs an organization called WorldBlu, dedicated to promoting democratic workplaces. I want to contribute to Traci, because her mission is good, and she’s darned smart at executing.
    So, I love the idea of focusing on relationships, and stepping out of our egocentric worlds to see connections that are so key.

  7. Dan – I love your addition (“Whom can I truly benefit this year and how?”) as it is relationship – and (servant) leadership oriented. And the examples are spot on. Thanks for the additions!

  8. Hi Mary Jo,

    In response to your question about strengthening relationships at work I have found the best way is to communicate with coworkers/bosses on a personal level during lunch or after work.

    This technique hasn’t always worked however as some of the people I work with carry an opinion/philosophy that there is work life and home life and those two shouldn’t mix as much as possible. What would you suggest as a better way to build communication and understanding with someone who wants to keep the work relationship formal?


  9. Joe, I think you’re doing it right. If it is possible in your workplace, you might consider MBWA – “Management by Walking Around” during the workday. Stop by workstations, spend a few minutes asking how they are doing, what you/your organization could do better, etc. Best wishes!

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