Building Respect, Trust, and Authentic Connection

I’m sure her intentions were noble, yet her actions conveyed a different message.

I want to collaborate with you on a project, she wrote in an email. Let’s schedule a phone conversation.

Her assistant set up the call, which lasted less than 10 minutes. After exchanging the usual pleasantries and background overviews, she said we should co-author an article because we shared several common interests. I agreed. My assistant will get more details to you, she promised.

That’s the last time the two of us engaged. All subsequent communications, be they written or verbal, were with her assistant.

Throughout the back and forth of the project, I felt more like an employee than a collaborator.

This was an uncomfortable feeling, one that prompted me to reflect. I wondered if at times, because of an overly full schedule, had I done the same thing to others.

I had.

Oh, dear.

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will remember how you made them feel. ~Maya Angelou

In my quest to succeed, I’d failed to lead myself. I hadn’t always given others the gift of presence and authentic connection.

Just like the co-authoring woman and her delegation to her assistant had done, I’d inadvertently sent the message that my time was more important, my power greater, and my spot on the totem pole more lofty. Ah, to be able to turn back the hands of time and have a go at do-overs.

It’s not possible or practical for every interaction to be face-to-face or spoken-word-to-spoken-word. There has to be that Goldilocks “just enough” that reinforces to others that their contributions are valued, their time is important, and their voices are valued enough to be heard directly, not through a third party.

7 ways to build colleague-to-colleague respect and trust

This message of connection, respect, and value can be conveyed in ways big and small, from a distance or up close and personal, because building a personal connection is work that can never be delegated.

  • Communicate one-on-one periodically when involved with a colleague on a work project. Walk by someone’s cube or office and deliver a message in-person.
  • When physically present, nod, smile, and acknowledge their presence. Listen fully someone is speaking.  If not in-person, respect their time and work by reading their entire email, report, or message.
  • Be more than a figurehead at employee functions and get-togethers. Put the phone down and engage.
  • Practice reciprocity and think equals, colleagues, not subordinate. Share the spotlight and give credit where credit is due.
  • Use the feedback that’s requested. People know when the ask is hollow and for appearances only.
  • Focus on being both likeable and competent, both efficient and effective.
  • Set the right ground rules and expectations upfront. Specify if the work project will be directive or collaborative and follow through appropriately.

Those who must listen to the pleas and cries of their people should do so patiently, because the people want attention to what they say, ever more than the accomplishing for which they came. ~Ptahhotep, Egyptian philosopher

In leading yourself, be both strong and courageous enough to be vulnerable. Reflect on your busyness. Is your time and attention focused on things, process, and results? Are people, connection, and relationship missing from the equation?

If so, find the ideal combination of both results and relationships that work for you so respect, trust, and authentic connection can be yours.