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Leadership Skills: Developing Positive Relationships

Layne McDonald. Ph.D.

It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently. - Warren Buffett

Maintaining High Standards of Personal Behavior by keeping lofty standards of personal beliefs; behaving with integrity and fairness; acting ethically; showing respect and sensitivity for the views of others; ensuring that all relevant people are kept informed of plans, decisions, and progress; pro-actively seeking positive relationships; accepting criticism and feedback positively. The rationale is that the leader must aspire to be a role model for lofty standards of personal behavior and be ethical, honest, and genuine so that colleagues and stakeholders trust them. Even if the leader is required to conduct actions that have an unpalatable impact, such as when redundancies are necessary, the aim is to carry out such activities in an as honest, open, and sympathetic manner as possible so that observers, even those most negatively affected, will not be able to accuse the leader of unacceptable personal behavior.

Establishing Supportive Communication Systems by setting up training programs that develop individual and team communication skills; setting up systems that support collaboration and cooperation between internal and external individuals and groups; implementing information management systems that ensure critical information reaches people on time; encouraging consultative and participative decision making at all levels. The methods and approaches described here are essential foundation blocks for positive relationships to be built and developed. Without this underlying framework, information will be dissipated and misinterpreted, decisions will be based on inadequate information, and connections will deteriorate.

Promoting Values and Standards by consulting with specialists, individuals, teams, and legislative bodies to identify and establish appropriate values and standards for the organization; providing guidance on values and norms that is understood at all levels; ensuring that all external partners are made aware of the organizations values and standards; implementing policies and procedures that manage, monitor, and improve the quality of values and norms, at all levels; taking prompt and visible action when established values and standards have not been maintained. The aim here is to ensure that all working relationships are built and developed against a background of known values and standards and that all parties understand that the quality of internal and external relationships is an essential aspect of the organization’s approach to these.

Gaining The Trust of Colleagues by consulting with colleagues openly and honestly; keeping colleagues appropriately informed about decisions, plans, actions, and progress; providing colleagues with sufficient personal support; honoring commitments made to colleagues; treating colleagues with respect and with proper confidentiality. Leaders should collaborate with colleagues in a way that proves the leader’s commitment to the values and standards of the organization and in a manner that demonstrates to colleagues that they have the respect and support of their leader. This is vital in enabling the leader to draw the best performance from colleagues and for those colleagues to achieve their performance targets. Gaining The Trust of External Stakeholders by striving to understand the viewpoint and the aims of the stakeholder; consulting with stakeholders openly and honestly; keeping stakeholders appropriately informed about the organization’s decisions, plans, actions, and progress; providing a personal commitment to agreements and arrangements; honoring commitments made to stakeholders; treating stakeholders with respect and with proper confidentiality. The aim here is to behave honestly, openly, and positively with stakeholders for the relationship between the organization and the stakeholder to be successful, with mutual understanding, mutual respect, and a desire to develop a beneficial relationship for both parties. This is essential in all external relationships and particularly critical when the connection is intended to be long-term.

Evaluate Relationship Performance by laying down clear quality criteria for the assessment of the condition of relationships; establishing monitoring procedures that include scheduled evaluation review points; insisting that evaluation reviews are carried out even though the relationship appears to be healthy; taking appropriate corrective action to address problems; adopting a continuous improvement approach to all internal and external relationships; ensuring that the quality of relationships is high on the quality assurance agenda of the organization. Regular and thorough assessments of the condition of relationships are vital. Without these evaluations and proper corrective action, many connections will deteriorate. Some will linger in a poor state, causing a constant flow of minor difficulties; some will implode and cause significant problems. These problems can be avoided by a regular health check on each set of relationships followed by proper action.

In Summary: just as the organization leaders must keep, develop, and continuously improve the quality of its physical resources, its marketing performance, its financial health, and so on, the leaders must also take the same approach to working relationships between themselves and others, and between all other internal and external partners in the organization. For the organization to achieve its operational targets and strategic aims, it is essential that all working relationships are healthy and productive and continuously improving. The leaders of the organization must ensure that this is the case.

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