How to get to know your colleagues better
(for new starters and existing staff)
A positive and thriving FE work culture does not happen overnight. Investing time in getting to know your colleagues is guaranteed to reap benefits including enhanced productivity. It is widely recognized that relationships with colleagues are hugely important as they contribute to a more positive and dynamic FE climate. Here are some tips which will help develop meaningful, respectful, and effective relationships.
If you are a new FE employee it is absolutely vital to listen to the experienced professionals around you. Although you are motivated and enthusiastic, you do not want to come across as knowing everything before you have barely settled into the role. Experienced FE staff will help you acclimate to the culture of your department. They will assist you in navigating the ups and downs of your roles and responsibilities. Diligently observe how experienced FE staff speak in meetings, during professional meet-ups, and with other colleagues. You will attain valuable knowledge.
If you don't understand something or you need help, don't be afraid to ask questions. Asking questions is an easy and effective way to build relationships with your colleagues. Ask your colleagues questions about their interests and hobbies outside of work, too. It can be good fun getting to know your colleagues that bit better.
Attend Important Events
Events led by senior leadership are worth attending. This will allow you to absorb the vision, goals, strategies and plans for the department of which you are part. You should have the opportunity to ask questions, get to know colleagues better and find out more detail about various aspects of your work.
When you interact with a colleague, be yourself, be real, and be honest. Foster genuine and meaningful relationships with your colleagues, not transactional ones. Your colleagues will soon realize that you are invested in the relationship.
When you hear gossip, do not take part. And never talk untruths about others. This can be extremely damaging to you, the parties involved, the department, and the institution. It will always come back to bite you. Showing your colleagues that they can trust you is a fundamental step in building strong relationships with them.
Offer Your Help
If you have a special skill or talent, let your colleagues know and offer your help as and when required, Colleagues will be extremely grateful and you will make an impression. Reverse mentoring is powerful.
Support Your FE Colleagues
Most FE professionals are engaged in a vast amount of paperwork, new initiatives, and departmental meetings. Supporting your colleagues' work lets them know you value their role and responsibilities and care about their interests.
Get to know your colleagues better by sharing experiences. FE staff regularly go out for dinner or drinks, and sometimes they attend cultural events together. Many staff attend student sporting events, musical performances, enterprise weeks. Take part in these outings when you can.
Carefully look for opportunities to create connection micro-moments. In-person workers are regularly in close proximity to our colleagues—but we are frequently so focused on the next thing on our to-do list that we completely ignore them. Take advantage of these opportunities. Remote workers have fewer opportunities to run into colleagues in the hallway or have a conversation after a meeting, so informal information sharing and learning about each other doesn’t happen without effort. But the opportunities are there, for example, before a zoom meeting commences. You can also schedule informal virtual lunch meetings with colleagues who aren’t nearby to simply catch up. You can create these valuable opportunities no matter your work situation.
Before any interaction take a moment to get into connection mode. Breathe deeply, then ask yourself: What can I learn from this person or group of people? How can I assist them? How can I display myself as a human and share a little more about myself, instead of jumping straight to tasks?
Bring all of your attention to the person you are interacting with. Our body language is crucial and speaks volumes. Use eye contact and lean in. Most importantly, put away your phone. We’ve all experienced that sense of smallness when someone answers a call or continues to look at their phone when we’re trying to have a conversation.
Ask more, tell less.
Author Dale Carnegie: “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get others to be interested in you.” One of the most powerful ways to create these moments of connection is to ask more questions.
Connection in meetings
Whether in-person or virtual, commence meeting agendas with several minutes of a good connecting exercise. For example, check-in questions such as What was your first job? What is your dream holiday? This is a great way to learn about teammates, seed offline conversations and find unexpected commonalities with your colleagues.
Celebrate when someone shares good news. Notice the positive, slow down for it, and ask interesting questions. Be primed with good news to share as you interact with your team members, like celebrating progress on a goal or something exciting in your personal life. Have a series of go-to positive questions that you regularly ask— “What’s going well? What are you looking forward to? What’s been a highlight of your work?”—and then really listen to the answers.
Undoubtedly there will be occasions when people are struggling with something difficult. Listen carefully and with compassion. Listening can be powerful. Any conversation can be a micro-moment of connection as long as you are actively listening.
As the pandemic is slowly but surely diminishing from our world, we have the opportunity to rebuild important social connections with colleagues that were lost, or put on standby, during the pandemic. Reaching out and connecting can be difficult. Many of us are socially out of practice, and it can feel vulnerable to reach out or start sharing. But so many people are feeling lonely and isolated right now; many of them will appreciate your efforts, even if they are a bit sceptical or confused at first. And it’s worth the effort. Connecting and collaborating with others feels good makes us happier, and helps us be more productive at work.