I remember the first working day of 2018. Then I blinked and we find ourselves in April! Everyone I speak to mentions how hectic things are and how fast the year seems to be moving. In a fast-paced world, how do we make sure that we get through our reams of to-do lists, and still engage well with the people and team we do life with?

Neurobiologically we are wired for community and connection. We need each other. This is just as true in the work environment, as in our personal lives. What is important to remember is that we build relationships that are mutually supportive. How?

–    Relationship with leaders: The health of your relationship with your immediate leader/manager is incredibly important to your career, as well as your feeling of satisfaction at work.  Many of us are aware of the impact our immediate bosses can have on our career trajectory but too often we stop short, paralysed by fear.  I would encourage you to move towards your managers rather than away from them.  You can do this by increasing the positive interactions you have with them. Keep them up to date with wins, not just problems. I’m not suggesting that you stand in front of them and give a10-page list of why you’re awesome, I’m recommending that every now and then you give them a titbit of good news. Something as simple as “I just wanted to let you know that we managed to sort out that problem with machine X.” or “Just to keep you in the loop, client X has agreed to our proposal and things are moving along well.” These can be made in passing, without a big formal meeting. These will often develop into gateways to broader conversations; or can simply change the types of interaction you have moving them from wholly negative to a mix between positive stories and interactions for solution development.

–    Those you lead: This level can be more challenging than either of the others. It is important to remember that you have a responsibility to the people who you lead, and that means that sometimes you make decisions (or even just deliver a message regarding a decision) that they don’t agree with, or like. I am a strong believer in seeking connection with those you lead and creating space for dialogue. The challenge can come when those you lead misunderstand either your praise or correction. Many times, I see teams where a leader praises their team or a team member (and rightfully so) and this is somehow understood as a free pass and complete support. Then a time comes where the leader corrects the team or team member. Now the correction is interpreted as an attack or a personal vendetta. This is very difficult for leaders to deal with. Let’s be honest: standing shoulder-to-shoulder to people where their dislike is palpable is not the most fun you can have. So how do you deal with this? I believe the answer lies in consistency. Behaving in a consistent way, where one plus one always equals two creates a sort of homeostasis. But it takes time. And in the times when it is very difficult, lean on your peers.

–    Peer-level relationships: Organisations are structured. Regardless of how flat an organisational structure is, there is hierarchy. Building relationships with those on the same organisational level as you is important. This is where you can take technical questions, this is where you can ask for input on historical learning or tap into institutional knowledge. This is where you get input in terms of how to deal with those in positions above and below you. These relationships also position you to advocate for one another and support one another.  You can develop peer-level relationships by asking for input from your peers and then using that as a springboard to develop ideas together. Check yourself to make sure that you aren’t only offering input, otherwise you won’t be coming across as a team player.

Effective communication is the bedrock to connection and good relationships. If you feel your team would benefit from training and or coaching in this area, do not hesitate to contact me.

When it comes to connection, I try to remember this quote by Brené Brown, “We don’t have to do it all of it alone. We were never meant to.”  So, reach out… communicate.


Robyn Evans is the Business Development Manager in the Global Business Solutions Port Elizabeth office.