Managing teams virtually across the globe, I am often struck by how much more you get done once you truly understand the importance of individual working relationships and take the time to invest in them.
All people have with unique needs and communication styles, and I have found cultivating workplace relationships to each individual’s “love language” can be an effective strategy to build team collaboration and achieve mutual professional goals.
Gary Chapman wrote about these principles in his 1995 book, The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate. Although Chapman’s book focuses on romantic relationships, the lessons contained are equally applicable to professional relationships and can be applied globally with some creative thinking.
Here’s how to apply 5 relationship languages to improve your global working relationships.
1. Words of affirmation
Kindness matters! Be authentic and specific in your praise. A quick email thanking a subordinate or colleague for acing a difficult task, copying management/related stakeholders, is often appreciated. For immediate impact, I like to use the chat window in virtual meetings to send a “shout-out” for work well done. Lately, I have been amplifying my gratitude commenting on a colleague’s social media blog or a tweet for public recognition where it makes sense.
2. Quality time
Be present! Time is the most precious resource in the world, and people appreciate it when you are generous with yours. Uninterrupted time spent with others does more good than words of affirmation. I focus on knowing the person, not just the work projects they are doing, by discussing outside-work interests (families, hobbies, sports, etc.). And it is so much fun to learn about my colleagues’ outside interests! Sometimes I also set up one-on-one sessions with no agenda at all, just to learn what is on my coworker’s mind and about their work challenges.
3. Receiving gifts
Show tangible recognition! For some, gifts are much more than a physical present. Understand that such individuals are not materialistic; they just respond well to tangible demonstrations of appreciation. Gift-giving can be more challenging for remote teams with members throughout the globe, but gifts do not have cost a lot of money, or even any at all. For example, I often send article links on topics that I know that particular colleague is interested in; other colleagues send video postcards recognizing a job well done.
4. Acts of service
Roll up your sleeves! Some people appreciate the things we do far more than the words we say, the time we spend with them, or things we give them. For these individuals, the way to their heart is through deeds. Offer to help them work on a specific action item—host a meeting for the colleague, help prepare or proofread a presentation, write up an email the colleague needs, etc. It doesn’t need to be a time-consuming task, and it can mean a lot to them.
5. Physical touch
It’s about connection! Some people connect best through physical touch. When interacting with these coworkers remotely in a global setting, use plenty of non-verbal pictures – a thumbs-up, applauds, high fives, etc. – in emails, presentations, and other written communications. When meeting in person, add a confident handshake to your greeting. Discretion is imperative when touching anyone in a business environment, so always err on the side of caution to avoid making your coworker uncomfortable.
Using the 5 languages of love globally
Use emotional intelligence! When you are on a global team in which you work with many stakeholders from diverse cultural backgrounds, a “one-size-fits-all” relationship building approach can be limiting. Remember to use your emotional intelligence to focus on what technique works best with your colleagues and stakeholders. And be patient with yourself—it can take some time to apply these principles while building strong relationships.
For more strategies that build winning workgroups, see Champion Teams Vs. Team Of Champions In The Future Workforce.