Building healthy, engaged relationships between colleagues

Improvement Dialogues

Building relationships with people isn’t always easy, especially when it comes to working with teams. Finding the right approach to maximize each person’s performance takes skill, patience, curiosity and the ability to be open, however, when done right, it can foster invaluable positive change.

The easiest kind of relationship for me is with ten thousand people. The hardest is with one

American singer Joan Baez
woman listening

Employees can play the role of a catalyst for others, helping them to do better work and enhance their performance. With better connectivity between people diversity increases, which can fuel the work of others.

So what does it takes to build healthy, engaged relationships between colleagues? It requires a blend of:

  • Appreciative Inquiry
  • Powerful Questions
  • Improvisational Theater
  • Focus Areas
  • Inquisitive Statements

If you want to have fruitful discussions and find a simple and quick way to bring the conversation forward, start with an inquisitive statement and then accept what the other says back. By building on top of each other’s contributions, respecting what the other has said before and by contributing with new statements in an affirmative way you’re most likely to bring out the best in everyone.

Additionally, if you’re looking to help employees and colleagues learn to do better work, personal coaching, one-on-ones and pair working are three great examples.

Let’s quickly experiment with an improvement dialogue:

The general idea of an improvement dialogue is that a person picks a random statement from a list (or draws it from a pile of cards) and completes the sentence in any way he or she wants.

For example: “What I need most is:..” (for the sake of clarity we’ll do P1 and P2 for the two different voices)

P1: “What I need most is… a bit more time to learn new tools and technologies.”

Speech Bubbles

The coach, manager, pairing partner, or copilot now has the obligation to respond to that statement in the affirmative and offer a suggestion to bring the dialogue forward

P2: “OK, perhaps we can find out what busy work is keeping you from learning new things.”

It is then up to both participants to keep the conversation flowing by always staying positive and trying to contribute to the previous statement.

P1: “Yes, I have a hunch that management’s daily interruptions are costing me too much time.”
P2: “I see. Well, it should not be too difficult to measure this and validate that assumption.”
P1: “You’re right, I’ll see if I can find a time tracker app on my smartphone to do this.”
P2: “Good, and I will check if someone else has done something like that before.”