I frequently share with my co-workers an admittedly lofty, perhaps slightly naïve goal -- that each of us, at the appropriate time, will retire from our current employer. In an age where people tend to change careers -- not to mention employers -- at a rate resembling the frequency of buying a new car, this goal may seem preposterous. As life can be unpredictable, it may not be 100 percent realistic, but I do believe that you greatly increase your odds with the right focus.
The approach is a rather simple one -- begin the relationship with the long-term in mind. In other words, treat each employee relationship as if it's going to be permanent. This is the difference between a summer fling mentality and a committed bond. If you believe that you will be working in the same office with an individual for the next several decades, you probably will take more care in crafting a meaningful relationship.
Here are three ways to create lasting relationships with your team.
1. Spend quality time together.
Great long-term relationships don't happen overnight. They are a byproduct of genuinely getting to know someone over the course of time. A single conversation over coffee isn't likely to create a lifetime commitment. And that's good news because it takes the pressure off a single interaction.
Rather, trust and understanding grow through a series of small interactions over the weeks, months and years. The most important rule of thumb is to spend quality time consistently with each member of your staff, through the occasional lunch, team sporting event or other social activities. While terrific in-office interactions play an equally important role in developing great relationships, social connections can accelerate the process.
2. Work on further developing your communication skills.
Sticking with the marriage example, consider for a moment a leading cause of divorce. Besides money, the number one culprit is often a lack of or poor communication. For individuals on your team to reach a point where they think of themselves as "lifers" they need to feel comfortable in their career trajectory. This only happens when they are receiving a clear and consistent message from the top.
All communication, whether you are delivering exciting news or having a tough conversation, needs to be handled with care, clarity and an even tonality. Remember -- communication is a two-way street, so be available and approachable to comments and suggestions.
3. Demonstrate that you care by offering support during adversity.
We have a team member named Brooks who recently shared with me his commitment to retire with our organization. He is a young man with more career ahead of him than behind -- but he couldn't have been more serious about his ambition. Certainly not the only, but definitely a strong reason for his passion about our company, is how his co-workers and managers responded to his recent adversity.
His daughter, unfortunately, was diagnosed with leukemia last year. On the road to recovery, her extensive treatment required weekly visits to the hospital, about two hours away from home. At least once a week, Brooks would be out of the office. His teammates rallied behind him, doing everything in their power to show support. From chipping in to help with his workload, to cards, donations and constant encouragement, these kindnesses from his managers and the entire team strengthened an already strong bond.
By getting to know your team through quality interactions, communicating brilliantly and showing them you truly care, it is possible to build a team of "lifers." A team that has a long term focus is a team where everyone buys into the success of the organization as a whole. And when that happens, magical things in your business will follow.