Over the years I have built strong working relationships with people in other parts of the office and often in different countries, some of whom I never met face-to-face and some I did not particularly love. However, building a collaborative and effective working relationship with your team is not about being everyone’s best friend. On the contrary, I’ve observed how being too close to colleagues can actually undermine a respectful working relationship.
If you are very lucky, you can choose your team. However, we usually have to work with the team we are given, who all have different personalities, needs and abilities that need to be managed differently, e.g. the pushy account manager, slippery product manager or temperamental, rock star developer.
I have learned there are two basic approaches to improving team working that are often overlooked.
Agreeing How to Work Together
Understanding and agreeing how you want to work together is the first step towards building good working relationships. This could be simply agreeing how to engage with each other, when to engage each other and your commitment expectations. This will vary greatly from person to person, for a variety of reasons, so having the conversation upfront will stop you making the wrong assumptions and save time.
Arguably, one of the quickest and most effective ways to build a relationship with a team member is to see them face-to-face as often as possible. This could be in a regular team meeting or one-to-one, but ideally you want to physically sit with your team for the following reasons.
- Improves efficiency – speeds up communication
- Encourages face-to-face communication, building engagement and trust
- Enables continuous collaboration, e.g. provides a central location for task boards and white boards
- Allows relevant conversations to be overheard so that teammates can contribute insights to others’ conversations
- Strengthens team spirit
- Allows team members to learn from each other’s practices
While there are many ways to help improve team collaboration, such as team building events, objectives setting and training, agreeing how to work together and then sitting together to put those agreements into practice is often the most effective and the best first step.