I noticed a trend in the course materials I’ve been creating and revising lately. No matter what the main topic, I found that somewhere in the handouts I noted that the skill wasn’t just about improving or mastering a series of tasks or honing a new ability. Rather, it was also about building and maintaining relationships.
So in the business writing handouts, for example, I highlighted that it’s worth taking the time to compose clear emails with a relevant subject line, that stick to a single message and note what, if anything, is needed from the reader in return and by when. The most immediate reason for this is that it wastes less of everyone’s time: the recipient doesn’t have to wade through unnecessary information and/or you don’t have to send a follow up asking for information that you didn’t give a due date for, for example.
But the more important issue is that business communication is about relationships. It’s worth paying attention to who, in your inbox, always starts their messages with a salutation and returning the favor–even if this isn’t your standard practice. Creating documents and writing presentations that acknowledge the humanity of those who will receive them reaffirms that we are more than the sum of what’s on our task lists.
And the business etiquette handouts likewise center the issue of relationships, building on a comment by Emily Post about the profound misunderstanding most of us have about what etiquette is. It’s not about putting on airs: it’s about how our behavior touches one another whenever our paths cross–that is, relationships.
Valuing what’s human in each other certainly has a payoff in productivity. If we’ve built relationships with our co-workers and colleagues we know who to turn to for guidance on particular issues or who to call to make sure an important piece of paperwork makes it to the top of the pile.
But I hope it’s more than that. It’s also about enhancing the time we spend at work and about making sure we get and give the encouragement we all need to have days filled with as many activities as possible that speak to our hearts as well as our minds.
So be efficient, but not to the point of being brusque and negatively impacting a relationship (thanks to Paul for commenting on this in a recent post!).
And be chatty and personable, but not to the point of frustrating your partner in the conversation who may have some important work to do.
Does remembering that it’s about the relationship as much as accomplishing the task at hand cause you to rethink you’re approach to anyone or anything in your work environment?