Designing Your Work Relationships For Success

[Note: I have repurposed this article from its original location on LinkedIn for those of you who may not be part of that network.]

When I take the time to uncover how I can work better with my colleagues, I’m often pleasantly reminded that understanding myself better is a key step in this process. Getting into a state of flow by removing obstacles & points of friction usually starts with examining my own motivation, boundaries and beliefs.

To help make this process more concrete and tangible with my co-workers, I’ve adopted a practice that has been used by others before but one that I believe deserves more attention.

It used to be more common that when you purchased software that there would be an accompanying “read me” file – an introductory document for understanding where to start with the software, its capabilities and its limitations. I’ve created my own personal “read me” file that I’ve shared out at my company to help others understand the most effective ways to work with me so that we can both benefit.

Dr. Michael Gervais, a noted performance psychologist, refers to this as “front-loading” a relationship with additional information in order to make a stronger foundation. My friend Sara Smeaton recently told me that this also fits into the “designed alliances” concept in co-active coaching. If you’re curious to hear more from Dr. Gervais on effective teams, you can watch the first 10 minutes of this Microsoft-sponsored video: http://videos.microsoft.com/modern-workplace/watch/dpxQ9ezKh4CxjCDHD4nmx5

This “read me” file that I’ve created is a work-in-progress and something that I update as I learn new things about myself. There is a certain amount of vulnerability involved with revealing something like this to your colleagues, but I firmly believe that it is also empowering to own these items. Not only are you enabling the people around you to be successful when engaging with you, you’re setting yourself up for success as well.

My file is fairly free-form in presentation but the points fall into general categories like “communication style”, “contact methods”, “growth areas” and “value statements”.

For example, my file contains entries like

“I can fixate on details so if I seem stuck, please remind me of the bigger picture.”

“Please respect my status settings in Skype. If I am Busy, I may not respond immediately. If I am set to Do Not Disturb, I won’t respond. Generally, I would prefer you send me an email – email is still the best way to contact me overall.”

“I work best with people who are optimistic rather than pessimistic. Skepticism is good – cynicism is not.”

When drafting my file, I needed to take a step back and objectively ask myself whether I was establishing a healthy boundary or maintaining an inflexible or possibly dogmatic viewpoint. All of this was done without judgment or expectation of the perception of others. As long as I felt that it was authentic, then I included it in the file.

I would encourage you to explore creating your own “read me” file to share with your team. Even if you never share it publicly, the time you take in drafting it and learning more about yourself will be time well spent.

Thank you for taking the time to read this article and I hope it has resonated with you.