Building and maintaining work relationships from afar can pose a challenge. Here’s the kind of goal that will help you excel at it – even while remote. On second thought, let’s begin with a story.
The spray of the ocean mists your face as you stroll across the deck. You smile, watching the crew perform in unison. They notice your approach and return the smile; you’ve toiled intently to strengthen work relationships amongst your team and have thus far succeeded.
Morale is high, you’re making great time, and all is going according to plan.
Actually, better than you had planned. Crews like this are hard to come by and you count yourself grateful to be in the midst of such dedicated workers.
Dark clouds and high waves
Your pleasant daydreams soon dissipate though as your first mate hurriedly approaches. “Captain,” she says, “we have a storm coming in.”
Storms are a given on the open sea. They are nothing to panic about and are over just as soon as they start. But today, things feel different. The waves are choppier than they have been in a long time. The sky is dark. You nearly mistake it for night.
This is no ordinary storm.
As you converge upon it, waves crash onto the deck. Wind rips through the sails. Windows shatter. All the while you give orders to the crew. Move that over there, tie this to that, pull this up, put that down.
Your crew works diligently under your strong command.
Clear skies once again
The storm finally passes.
Tired, overworked, you gather the crew to assess damages. Fortunately, it’s mostly cosmetic. Nothing that will hinder your voyage.
You sigh with relief.
Signalling to your first mate to take over, you head to your quarters. What a mess. You open the door and could swear that the storm took place solely in your room. Windows are gone, water is everywhere, your belongings float amongst the wreckage.
Change of plans
You’re not in there long before you hear (or rather, feel) a loud thud right outside your door. Jolting up, you run over to the entryway. The door opens, but there’s no getting out. Looks like one of the masts, damaged from the storm, fell right in front of your quarters.
The crew tries to lift it to no avail. It’s too heavy to budge.
You’ll need another storm to dislodge something this bulky. And with that, your perfect plan goes out the window (or at least, what used to be a window).
This is fine. This is fine. I can make this work.
Though you’re stuck in your cabin for the remainder of the voyage, you do have some good things going for you. Most importantly being the love of your crew. The relationships you’ve built are strong and can surely handle this.
You hope. Time will tell and you have a lot left before you get to port.
When setting goals for yourself, particularly with those relating to others, it’s easy to fall into generics. For instance, many times you will see someone set a goal like: Strengthen work relationships with everyone in the office.
Now, that goal comes from an honest place. You have good intentions. However, the setup is flawed.
Because it doesn’t actually say anything. It sounds good. It’s short, easy to remember, and will certainly make you feel like you’re doing something. But you’re not. Instead, what happens is:
- You mostly forget about it;
- When you do remember it, you’re not sure what to actually do;
- Further, you’re not sure what constitutes everyone in the office (does it include the people that water the plants at night?).
The problem with ambiguity
When you set a vague goal, you get vague results. And with vague results comes frustration and disappointment; you don’t achieve what you’d like, so you quit. There’s a simple fix you can apply to remedy this issue though.
Two fixes, actually.
First, and most importantly, you need control over your goal. When you set a goal within your control, you give yourself the power to achieve it. You either do the work or you don’t. It’s an ideal place to operate from.
Conversely, without control, you open yourself up to “failing” for reasons that you have no say over.
For example, in the case of the aforementioned goal, you have no control over whether or not your relationship with everyone in the office actually strengthens. Depending on the size of the office, there’s a likelihood that some relationships won’t work out.
So to base your entire goal on strength is flawed and sets yourself up for failure.
Instead, give yourself control. You have no say over other people, but you do have say over your actions. Therefore, you can adjust your goal in that direction. To something like: Talk to two new people in the office each day.
In that scenario, it’s all on you.
You either walk up to the person or you don’t. You either message someone or you don’t. Either way, the burden of work is on you, which is a good thing considering how determined you are.
The second aspect of setting a goal to strengthen work relationships is specificity.
Notice, the revised goal is specific. You know exactly how many people to speak to each day. Plus, you know who to speak with (someone new). If you wanted to make it even more specific, you could hone in on the department you want to connect with.
Making your goal something like: Talk to two new people in the sales department each day. It’s specific, within your control, and entirely actionable.
Adjusting for remote work
That goal assumes that you’re in an office place though. What if you want to strengthen work relationships while remote? Apply the same formula. Make it specific and within your control.
For instance, I personally work from home. But, I see the value in the relationships of those people who I don’t often see. So, I have a list with everyone on it. And each day, I go through and reach out to two people on that list.
It can be a text, call, email, whatever. I’ve left it open for the sake of flexibility. Regardless, I know exactly what to do each day – reach out to two people on my list.
*Note: This is an idea I implemented after reading the book, How to Be a Power Connector by Judy Robinett, which I highly recommend.
Examples to use
Relationships are critical to any organisation. Yet, in a remote setting it can be difficult to maintain or enrich them. That’s where setting a specific goal within your control becomes so important.
Don’t let the relationships dwindle or break, instead, set a goal for yourself.
It could be something like:
- Reach out to two people on my team each day;
- Call one person in my department each week;
- Email one new person within the branch every other day;
- Or all of the above.
Feel free to make it as specific as you’d like. From there, it’s then a matter of doing the work.
You need to plan for it
It’s great to have a goal, but unless you have a plan for when you will do it, nothing will happen. So once you set the goal that’s within your control and specific, plan out when you will do it. It could be first thing in the morning, after lunch, or on a Friday afternoon.
The when doesn’t matter so long as there is one.
Be sure to plan out exactly when you will take action on your goal. And then when the time comes, take the action. After all, it’s entirely on you (and that’s a good thing).
A new plan to strengthen work relationships
Let’s return back to our captain friend.
You’ve made peace with being stuck in your cabin. It was difficult at first, but you’ve since adjusted. And now, things are running just as smooth as they had been. Each morning your first mate comes to the door. You discuss the plan for the day, talking over the mast that blocks your exit.
From there, your first mate partners with your second mate to bring it about.
Additionally, you have a list of every person in the crew. At specified times throughout the day, you have them come to the door. During which time, you ask how they’re doing and continue to strengthen work relationships.
You didn’t think it’d be possible, communicating like this, but you now find it nice. Pleasant, even. Who knows, maybe you’ll work exclusively in your cabin from now on.
When setting a goal, make sure that you have control over it. The more control you have, the greater the chance of success. Additionally, make it specific. Leave no room for ambiguity.
Finally, once you have your goal, plan out exactly when you will take action on it. Put it on the calendar, add it to your schedule, set a reminder. Recognise the exact time and day that you will do the work. And when that time comes, do it.
Here’s to smooth sailing.
About the Author
Corey Fradin is the founder of QuickBooost, a blog that helps you achieve your goals. Through his work, Corey shows you how to create a life of meaning and fulfillment. One of true goal success.