A graphic of my golden rule for great workplace relationships - don't be a dick

The Golden Rule for Great Working Relationships

This week, I was due to write a smart article about how to avoid workplace conflict.

But the more I thought about, the more I realised that the first and most important step to having great working relationships is actually very straightforward.

So I drew this instead.

It’s what I often find myself saying (or wishing I had said) to clients who have got themselves into a hole at work and are still digging.

It’s what I often need to tell myself when I’m about to get defensive or annoyed by someone, or to do something thoughtless.

We all know this. it’s isn’t complicated and sometimes it really is this simple!

Better Team Communications

This is one of my favourite models to use if your team isn’t communicating that well

[Click the image above and then right-click to save or download a full-size copy]

You’ll know when you have poor team communication, because there are:

  • Disagreements and conflicts all over the place
  • Misunderstandings repeating time and again
  • Rising stress levels
  • Missed deadlines
  • Lower quality than usual.

Barnlund’s model, which dates back to the ’70s, is a great way to break down a team communication problem and start practising some better ways of understanding each other.

As you can see from the diagram, there are four stages:

  1. Active Listening
  2. Continuous Feedback
  3. Shared Meaning; and
  4. (checking for) Noise and Context.

Research shows that the benefits are:

  • A more interactive understanding, rather then a passive reliance on the communicator
  • An intention to share the meaning rather than impose it.

As always, the meaning of your message is in what is understood by someone, rather than in what you actually meant to say!

Please add your own tips for great team communications on Twitter (X!). Or say something about your own experience - e.g. when does team communication really shine, and when does it go wrong? Click To Tweet

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What a Positive Workplace Culture Should Actually Be About

Positive culture isn’t about table football or pizza. It’s fixing what’s broken, owning mistakes, celebrating success, and offering help.

Managing Difficult Conversations at Work

Equip yourself to manage difficult conversations at work effectively and compassionately with this comprehensive step-by-step guide

Laying the Groundwork

Managing challenging conversations at work is a fundamental part of being a successful leader.

Why? Because it’s necessary for setting and maintaining behavioural standards, which in turn contribute to the happiness and effectiveness of your team.

The Imperative of Managing Difficult Conversations

Ignoring or tolerating unacceptable behaviours isn’t an option, as it inadvertently lowers the bar and breeds a culture of tolerance towards such behaviour.

However, let’s face it – conversations like these are never easy, especially for those of us who are sensitive to the needs and feelings of others.

But it’s important to understand that the lack of setting boundaries and calling out unacceptable behaviours often comes with a cost.

Making a Practical Difference

Here’s the good news – this guide aims to equip you with the framework needed to manage difficult conversations effectively and compassionately.

It will help you to deal with these issues in a manner that both respects your team members and protects the standards and values you wish to uphold in your workspace.

Here are the steps to take …

1. Preparation

Good preparation is the cornerstone of effective conversation

You need to come to the conversation well-prepared – gather your facts, identify your desired outcomes, and anticipate potential responses or issues. This level of preparation helps you address the situation confidently and objectively.

  • Example: If you’re discussing frequent lateness, prepare by documenting specific instances and how they have affected the team or project.

2. Location

The setting of your conversation can significantly impact its outcome

Choose a quiet, private space that is free from distractions. The right location can foster a conducive environment for a challenging conversation, making the other person more comfortable and receptive.

  • For example, a private meeting room is often more suitable than a bustling coffee shop for these discussions.

3. Role-Model Behaviours

Embody the professional standards you expect from others

Exhibit the behaviours you want to see in your team members, such as professionalism, composure, and positivity. Your attitude sets the tone for the conversation.

  • Example: Approaching the conversation calmly and professionally, regardless of the issue at hand, will encourage the same level of respect from your colleague.

4. Use Specific Examples

Clear, specific examples are crucial in addressing problem behaviours or poor performance

Avoid generalisations like, “You always do X.” Instead, provide concrete instances of the problematic behaviour. This approach enables the person to understand the exact issue.

  • Example: Instead of saying, “You’re always late,” say, “You arrived late for the team meetings on these specific dates, which caused us to delay our project discussions.”

5. Positive Illustrations

Offer a vision of improved behaviour or performance

After addressing the issue, provide examples of what improved behaviour looks like. This step helps to steer the conversation towards a more positive and constructive tone.

  • Example: You could say, ”In future, we would appreciate it if you arrived five minutes before our scheduled meetings to ensure we start on time.”

6. Agree a Plan

Set a clear and agreed-upon action plan and consequences

Create a joint action plan that specifies what needs to change, when, and how you will follow up. Explain what will happen if things don’t change. This establishes clear expectations and a mutual understanding.

  • Example: You might agree that the person will make an effort to arrive early for meetings, and you will check-in after a month to assess progress. Explain the consequences if this doesn’t happen.

7. Offer Support

Identify the support they might need from you

Ask what help they might need from you to implement these changes. Commit to providing the necessary support, demonstrating your investment in their improvement.

  • Example: If your team member is struggling with workloadmanagement, you might offer to help them prioritise tasks.

8. Going Deeper

Let’s dig a bit deeper. Consider your personal factors in handling difficult conversations. Who are your allies in this? What additional tools or resources might be helpful for you? Reflect on why it’s important for you to have this conversation.

Understanding the personal implications of these discussions can increase your resolve to address the issues and strengthen your ability to manage them effectively.

The Power of Effective Conversations

Tackling difficult conversations is a necessary challenge that every professional will face. The framework provided in this guide is designed to help you navigate these conversations with confidence, respect, and clarity.

Remember, your ability to manage challenging discussions effectively is not just about resolving issues— it’s about promoting a positive, respectful, and high-standard culture within your workspace.

Next Steps

Do you have a difficult conversation on the horizon? Don’t face it alone. Get in touch to discuss how you can prepare for and manage the conversation effectively, ensuring a positive outcome for both you and your team.

What's been your experience of managing difficult conversations at work? Please share your views and learning here: Click To Tweet

Building Strong Relationships in Remote Teams

Embrace the remote work revolution! Dive into my guide to building strong relationships within your remote team

However much some people would like it to not be the case we are now in the wake of the remote work revolution – it’s happened.

And with it, building strong relationships within teams has become a real concern for some leaders. The importance of getting these relationships right, in terms of people’s personal fulfilment and the wider organisational success can’t be overstated. They have a big impact.

The Silver Lining of Remote Work

Remote work comes with a clear set of advantages. The flexibility, reduced commute time, and improved work-life balance are just a few of the logistical benefits. But beyond that, it also offers unique opportunities for building relationships.

Navigating the Challenges

However, it’s not without its challenges. Lack of face-to-face interaction, communication barriers, and feelings of isolation can make relationship-building difficult.

Strengthening Bonds over Distance

Interestingly, remote work can enhance certain aspects of relationship-building. Increased autonomy, diverse communication channels, and opportunities for quiet reflection can all contribute to stronger bonds.

Harnessing the Power of Collaborative Tools

Remote work also encourages the use of collaborative tools. These tools not only aid in task coordination but also offer other advantages like real-time collaboration and document sharing.

Translating Face-to-Face Experiences

Drawing on face-to-face experiences can be a useful thing to remember to do in a remote setting. Even if ‘remote’ is now your default, we do all have experience of being face to face and we can draw on what makes that work well – and what doesn’t – and apply at least some of those lessons to our remote working. Regular communication and respecting personal boundaries are just a couple of ways we could incorporate those experiences. Maybe there’s other lessons for you too?

Building Relationships: A Practical Approach

Here are some practical tips for building strong relationships:

  • Open and clear communication: Over-communicate rather than leave room for misunderstandings. Set expectations, provide feedback, and address issues promptly.
  • Recognition of individual contributions: Boost morale and foster a sense of belonging by recognising and appreciating individual contributions. A shout-out in a team meeting or a personal thank you note can go a long way.
  • Fostering a supportive culture: Encourage team members to share their ideas and concerns. Address them appropriately to create a comfortable and motivating environment.
  • Leaders giving attention to people: Understand the strengths and weaknesses of your team members and provide necessary support. Regular one-on-one check-ins can be a great way to achieve this.

Regarding team-building activities, remember they may not be for everyone. Alternatives such as one-on-one check-ins or team discussions can be just as effective.

Leaders: The Cornerstone of Strong Relationships

Leaders play a pivotal role in fostering strong relationships. Embodying the ethos of “Leaders eat last”, they can create an environment where everyone feels valued and connected.

The Journey Ahead

Building strong relationships in remote teams is both a challenge and an opportunity. It’s a journey that requires patience, effort, and a willingness to adapt. But the rewards – increasing both personal fulfilment and organisational success – are well worth it.

So, if you’re ready to embrace the remote work revolution and build stronger relationships within your team, what the next step on that journey for you?

Tweet me @NickRobCoach to share your thoughts and experiences.

A silhouette of flying trapeze artists and a framework construction

Unlocking the Secrets of High-Performing Teams: The Impact of Trust on Employee Performance – A Research Summary

Discover trust’s power to fuel exceptional performance and ignite your team’s success!

It’s easy to argue that trust is a fundamental component of any successful organisation. But does it really foster a positive work environment, enhance collaboration, and ultimately, improve employee performance? This post summarises the main findings from four sets of useful research studies, looking at evidence of the impact trust has on people’s performance at work.

Trust and Team Performance

The paper “Trust and Team Performance: A Meta-Analysis of Main Effects, Contingencies, and Qualifiers” provides a comprehensive analysis of the relationship between trust and team performance. The study finds that trust does positively influence team performance. However, this effect can be moderated by factors such as task interdependence and cultural context. In essence, when team members do trust each other, they are more likely to collaborate effectively, leading to improved team performance.

The Role of Trust in Organisational Settings

In the paper “The Role of Trust in Organisational Settings: An Integrative Model”, the authors propose that trust plays a critical role in several organisational processes. For example, trust impacts leadership dynamics, team interactions, and the success of organisational change initiatives. They find that a trusting environment allows people to take calculated risks, innovate, and engage more deeply with their work. All of which can enhance overall performance.

Trust in Leadership

The study “Trust in Leadership: Meta-Analytic Findings and Implications for Research and Practice” presents a meta-analysis of research on trust in leadership. The findings suggest that trust in leadership is positively associated with job performance, job satisfaction, and organisational commitment. Leaders who earn trust can foster a work environment where people feel valued, leading to increased productivity and job satisfaction.

Trust, Risk-Taking, and Job Performance

The paper “Trust, Trustworthiness, and Trust Propensity: A Meta-Analytic Test of Their Unique Relationships with Risk Taking and Job Performance” explores the relationships between trust, risk-taking, and job performance. The study finds that trust and trustworthiness are positively associated with job performance. Interestingly, they also find that our natural inclination to trust others is not significantly related to job performance. Suggesting that it’s not just our propensity to trust, but the actual presence of trustworthiness in the workplace that influences performance.


In conclusion, trust does play a vital role in enhancing people’s performance at work. Whether it’s trust among team members, trust in leadership, or the general presence of trust in an organisation, there is evidence that trust significantly impacts job performance.

Leaders and organisations should work on fostering open communication, empowering their teams, and cultivating an environment of trust. Then they can drive remarkable performance. Take the first step to more engaged and satisfied people – and start reaping the benefits!

A modern ship's compass

How to Navigate Office Politics as a New Leader in Today’s World

Steer your ship through the sea of office politics. New leaders, here’s your compass for the world today

Navigating office politics can often feel like sailing in stormy seas. As a new leader, you’re the captain of your ship, so it’s crucial to steer with confidence.

Here are three tactics to help you navigate these waters now:

  • Build Alliances: Just as a ship needs a crew, a leader needs allies. Forge relationships based on mutual respect and shared goals. Remember, everybody brings unique skills to the table.
  • Manage Conflicts: Storms are inevitable in the sea of office politics. When conflicts do arise, address them directly but tactfully. This way, you can be the lighthouse guiding your team through the rough parts.
  • Establish a Positive Presence: As a leader, you’re the figurehead of your ship. Your actions set the tone for your crew. Make sure you lead with integrity and authenticity – and positivity to inspire the same in your team.

Remember, navigating office politics is a journey, not a destination. Keep your compass pointed towards these tactics, and you’ll sail through today’s leadership challenges with confidence.

Ready to navigate the seas of office politics?

Share your biggest leadership challenge these days in the comments below while they’re open or @ me on twitter