Don’t underestimate the value of getting to know your employees and vendors as people. For developing great working relationships plan time for getting together outside work to unwind, taking part in a charitable event, having a meal or just playing.

Getting to know your employees doesn’t mean you have to be best friends with them, but good working relationships allow for a certain amount of familiarity, and building human experiences together can cement your work force like nothing else.  Need some ideas to get things moving? Here are a few ways to get more personal with employees that I’ve seen work very well:

  • Team Dinners or Lunch: Grabbing dinner or lunch outside the office on a regular basis with team members is a great way to let them get to know each other (and you) in a casual setting. Cohesive teams are like families, and breaking bread together is a great way to humanize team connection and build trust. It’s also a time when work ideas get floated around, although that should not be the main focus. You’d be surprised how many great brainstorming sessions come out of an informal meal.
  • Playing Games: Creating a company softball or bowling league, or just getting together to play disc golf, bocce or other lawn games is a great way to “level the playing field,” with employees. Getting to know them in a fun, energized environment without office expectations often has a positive effect on work relationships. 
  • Participate in a Local Charity Drive: Getting behind a local cause, like Relay for Life, a charity golf event, or working a soup kitchen together is another way to share an experience that’s outside the office setting, yet creates a human bond. Community service is a great way to connect (like playing games) outside the boundaries of office relations.

Break out of the Box

An innovative idea that I saw in a Fast Company article recently was setting up an office “Microbrewery,” and having employees participate after hours if they wished. What?! Making beer together?? However, Andrew Fingerman, CEO of PhotoShelter, said in the article that the benefit goes beyond sharing the final product:

“Because group members range across teams and seniority, inevitably we talk about work challenges and ideas,” said Fingerman. “We also get to know each other as friends. It brings us closer together, and some very innovative ideas have emerged.”

Lend Them Your Ear

Breaking down barriers with employees doesn’t have to always be in groups. As an owner of a small business or a CEO of a larger one, consider making time to individually reach out for one-on-one conversations with employees and keep your communication channel open. Take it outside the office for a cup of coffee or cocktail, and give them your undivided attention. Ask them questions about their careers, hopes and dreams and share yours. Ask them about their goals and think about how you can help them. Letting them know they can come to you any time with concerns or suggestions is a great way to start off on the right foot and build trust with long-time employees and especially new hires.

Getting to know your employees in a group setting and/or individually is invaluable. Whether you choose to spend downtime with them, participate in charitable activities or sit down with them one-on-one, listen to what your individual employees have to say and be open. Make it a point to stay in touch and take a personal interest in their success… and their personal lives.  Learning about each other as people, not just positions, is the best way to form good working relationships, develop synergies and encourage advocacy.

Bottom line? If you want more out of your employees… engage, interact, and be human with them. That’s the way we work with each other best. Relationships are like muscle tissue… the more they are engaged, the stronger and more valuable they become. #RonR#NoLetUp!

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