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Bryan M. Sastokas, CIO & Head of Technology and Innovation, City of Long Beach
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Bryan M. Sastokas, CIO & Head of Technology and Innovation, City of Long Beach

Crowdsourcing, Open Data, Transparency, Innovation, and Collaboration–these are just a few of the terms used more frequently in Government these days. Today we (and yes I am including myself in there) use terms and concepts quite liberally to describe the way we deliver services and technology solutions. However, what I have learned is that most of these “initiatives” in order to be successful boil down to a common process—building relationships.

It seems that, at times, the practice of building great relationships is an afterthought. It does not have the cache of a new and shiny acronym and in a way maybe considered “old school”. Nevertheless, as trends and technology change, the benefits of some classic processes stand true. If it is cool to bring back throwback uniforms for sports teams and retro packaging for consumable products, why not hone an effective process in your management toolbox as well.

Reciprocal relationships have been vital to humans for millennia. We are naturally social creatures who desire friendship and positive interactions, so it makes sense that the better our relationships are at work, the happier and more productive we are going to be.

“Technology is there to support us and is as valuable as you make it, but genuine human interaction and relationships remain as important as they ever have been”

Genuine working relationships will give an organization several important benefits. Our work is substantially more enjoyable when we maintain positive relationships with the people around us. Strong relationships also support a culture where people are more likely to go along with changes while also being more engaged, innovative, and creative in their roles.

What’s more, good relationships give us greater capabilities to succeed. When you maintain quality relationships, you are no longer spending time and energy overcoming the problems associated with negative relationships so you can collectively focus on opportunities ahead of you.

So how do we focus on developing genuine relationships with both our customers and the organization? Well, there are several characteristics of good, healthy working relationships:

Being Trustworthy: This is the foundation of every genuine relationship. People in trusting relationships will seek out input from one another and allow one another to do their jobs without unnecessary oversight. If you trust the people you work with, you can openly discuss successes and failures to learn from them.

• Being Honest: Always be honest. Do not lie or make up stories. People place a high value on honesty. This characteristic is essential to building trust and credibility.

• Being Respectful: Respectful interac­tions are considerate, honest and thoughtful. When you respect the people that you work with, you welcome diversity of thought by valu­ing their input and ideas, and they value yours. People who respect one another value each oth­er’s opinions and take the time to consider what others have to say, and factor those insights into their own decision-making.

• Being Mindful: This means actively thinking about and taking accountability for your words and actions. By being mindful, you allow your emotional intelligence to prevent negative emotions from influencing your relationships.

• Being Appreciative: Feeling appreciated is a fundamental human need. People respond to appreciation and gratitude because it confirms they are valued. When people know they are valued, they are motivated to maintain and improve their relationships.

• Being Engaged: In our inter-connected world, we communicate all day, whether we are on the phone, emails, texts, or meeting face-to-face. Although technology has allowed us to communicate more frequently and rapidly, do not underestimate the value of an in-person conversation, even if it is only for 15 minutes over coffee. The more engaged you are with those around you, the richer your relationships will be.

As our world becomes more technology-driven and seemingly less personal, it is imperative that we focus more than ever on our relationships. Technology is there to support us and is as valuable as you make it, but genuine human interaction and relationships remain as important as they ever have been.

Trust, honesty, respect, mindfulness, appreciation and engagement may seem like basic concepts but when actively applied they are the underpinning characteristics for a strong foundation to help grow relationships.

And that’s enough, because every relationship, however minor and possibly fleeting, has value.

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