I’ve been thinking lots recently about why the amount of time I invest in building trusting relationships of my own as well as all the work we are delivering and developing in Building OUT (Building Openness, Understanding & Trust in teams) is worth it. And how to explain or help people who haven’t considered it before to understand why I think it is so important for (my) working life.

You can, and most people do, operate at work within teams with little explicit investment in building relationships and trust between each other – it mostly happens organically. And there are plenty of teams that work well together (aren’t there??). So if it ain’t broke…. why try and fix it? Surely spending time on delivering the work is much more valuable to your business?

As a caveat, I prioritise this kind of work, not for business benefits but because it is rooted in my values and needs. I want to and need to develop meaningful and deep relationships with people. It makes me happy, makes me feel whole, helps me to feel valued and that life is worth it. And I spend quite a lot of my life with people that I work with so it seems crazy to me to not develop strong relationships with the people I spend loads of time with.

But not everyone thinks like that, or needs that, so stripping back my personal values and needs that I am working to meet… why might it be beneficial for a team at work?

I’d like to suggest that building trusting and strong relationships at work is a way of building reserves into your business and your team. It makes your business more resilient, more able to weather a storm and more likely to survive in the long term.

Most business owners would agree that having a cash reserve to fall back on in difficult times so there as a safety net, for security and for stability is a sensible and hopefully vital thing. I would propose that investing in building reserves in relationships you have at work is as, if not more, important than the cash reserve you might have in the bank. And when I say reserves I mean trust, connection, understanding.

Building up this reserve takes time and energy, but when something happens that tests the relationship – that could be a bad day, a project going wrong, a mis-communication that leads to an angry client, someone dropping a ball or not turning up, or saying something that hurts someone, you can draw on your reserves between you to work through it and come out the other side. And then build those reserves back up again once the storm has passed.

So what happens if those reserves are low? Maybe it’s relationships where you don’t see eye to eye on something important but never quite get to the bottom of where you are coming from, when the same patterns of how you talk to each other or respond or work together happen again and again and you don’t see any change or improvement. When you avoid conflict with them because you don’t want it to become a massive fight, or the end of the relationship. When you get frustrated inside but do nothing about it or feel trapped that you can’t. There is nothing left for you to draw on, yet that relationship and the interactions you have with each other are costing you something.

It’s probably OK to accept that things won’t change and you get on with it. But what if you could start to build the understanding so that it can be a less stressful and draining relationship? Even by a small amount? Then you might have more headspace to be able to dedicate to delivering that project together, better.

It’s an investment that I believe pays back, not just in terms of benefits to your business, but benefits to the humans that make your organisation exist.

So what is the ‘work’ that helps build the reserves? These are some of the things at Outlandish we try our best to use that improve and support our communication and things that I believe when done regularly and with an open mind, build trust and understanding between each other. And, our work will never be done here – we don’t have it perfect at Outlandish and I’m sure we never will. All we can do is try our best, reflect, learn and keep making small steps together to make things that little bit better.

Happy Christmas everyone, and here is to a New Year where IRL becomes more normal again XXX