The Importance of Being Known

Chris McQueen, former Google employee, delivered a keynote address on some of the best practices his unit has learned, and I’ll share two of them with you. This week, I’ll offer some thoughts on generating solid team relationships. Next week, we’ll touch on the magic of three particular words.

As most of you know, I’m passionate about teams and individuals developing relationship power. This type of influence with one another happens by maximizing trust and vulnerability. One mistake I see leaders make is spending so much time and effort in getting to know others that they fail to disclose much about themselves. This is well-meaning; they want to keep the focus on others which is a good thing for a servant leader.

However, this can get one-sided—even creepy when taken to the extreme. You end up knowing a lot about the people you lead, yet they know little to nothing about you. Remember, relationship-building is a two-way street.

Here are some actions you can take toward creating a two-way enviornment.

  • Be be personally revelatory, while staying professional, in your one-on-one meetings with people. Make sure people know about your family, background, and hobbies. You may find that irrelevant, but they won’t. If you know those facts about them, they’d better know them about you.
  • In addition to quantity time, quality time matters too. Sometimes teams do a quick off-site or bonding activity, then they leave it behind them. “We already did that” becomes the thought, rather than “We need to keep doing that.”

McQueen reminded me of these ideas. Then, he gave me even more to think about when he quoted a researcher named Dr. Arthur Aron, who found that closeness requires self-disclosure preceded by five elements:

Sustained, escalating, reciprocal, personalistic, self-disclosure.

Sustained– continues over time, not just once.

Escalating – the nature of what we share gets more personal over time.

Reciprocal – it can’t be one-sided, or people get wary.

Personalistic – it’s not just about ideas, it’s about people, use of time, and the choices we make.

Self-disclosure builds vulnerability-based trust, which is why I frequently use Lencioni’s Personal Histories Exercise and Horstman’s Manager Tools Meeting Introductions Tool. Dr. Aron’s four reminders help us stay focused on the ongoing nature of building relationships.

Thanks for reading,

Alan Feirer

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