Getting to know the name of their dogWe all know how valuable it is to build rapport and ultimately trust with people. It’s not only a good way to lead (if that’s your role), but it also is just a nice way to be and creates good, lasting relationships.

When we create trusting relationships, we feel fulfilled and occasionally, it brings tangible benefits to both sides as a spin off.

I’m now a leadership trainer and meet with people from all over the world regularly. We often talk about relationship building as a topic. As if it is a one-off activity we learn and do. Of course, that isn’t true, but it is (and I say this in severe hindsight from my role as a manager over 25 years) a valuable activity to develop and there are some easy tactics you can try out.

One anecdote I share with my participants is the relationship I built with one of my team once I realised how passionate she was about her pet dog. Once I did, I would ask her occasionally about the dog and we would have a little chat about it. As I share this little story, I am sharing the potential of acknowledging that the people we lead are that – real people. And when we treat them with that respect, they are far more likely to reciprocate.

When we are interested in the things that truly interest them (and, believe it or not, it often isn’t work that’s top of their list of pleasures), they like us more, show interest in us as people too and ultimately will be more committed and motivated to work for us.

Remember that worn (and very valid) management saying ‘People join organisations – and leave their managers’, which morphs into the quoted statistic that ‘70% of employees leave an organisation because of the ‘behaviour’ in some way of their direct line manager’?

Getting to know the name of their dog is a metaphor for treating people as if they are humans and not employees. You will find many more, all intimate and unique for every one of your people. For some it might be a holiday they recently took; for others, it might be the birth of a grandchild; or their football team. I could – and you will – go on, finding out all about what interests them and spending a little time, occasionally, asking them about it. What a nice way to lead, appreciate and be appreciated by the people in your teams.

Then you value each other. The potential for win-win then enables you to call on them when there is a crisis and they are much more likely to respond, because you show them that they are interesting and valuable – as people. This isn’t about manipulating. It’s about respecting and being nice to people, like you would with a friend.

And that’s a great way to do business.

Martin Haworth is a business coach, leadership trainer and writer, working worldwide with corporations and businesses of all sizes. He can be found at