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15 Proven Practices to Build Effective Relationships at Work

Todd Davis

September 2017


In the play, No Exit, by the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, three people find themselves in the afterlife. They are trapped in a small room with no doors and no mirrors, and the windows are covered in brick. Little by little, it dawns on them that hell isn’t fire and brimstone or the torture chamber they imagined it to be. Instead, hell is other people.


How often do you work with people who bug the you know what out of you? Maybe it’s your annoying coworker who complains about everything. Or it’s your customer who insists on unrealistic demands. Perhaps it’s an employee who continually drops the ball or your controlling, micromanaging boss.


When confronted with people like this, if you’re anything like me, your first reaction is to blame and insist that someone (other than you) needs to change. “Can’t you just get over it?” “When will you stop talking and start listening?” “Why can’t you be more responsible?”  “Things would be so much easier if you weren’t so controlling, or demanding, or temperamental, or arrogant, or impatient, or disorganized, or __________ .” (Fill-in the blank with the personality trait that irritates you the most.)


I’ve heard similar sentiments over the past 21 years as Chief People Officer for FranklinCovey, a company focused on improving human performance in the workplace. Think of all time and effort you’ve spent trying to fix other people. Has it worked? While we’d like to believe we’re successful at changing others, we’re usually not. An “outside-in” approach to changing others is a futile investment that yields little to no return.


So, what do we do when our attempts fail? We move to the next “room” where we find another group of people that frustrate the you know what out of us all over again! Interestingly, the room in Sartre’s hell has no mirrors. Even if people wanted to look at themselves, they couldn’t. So, the opportunity for self-reflection is lost, and the relationships continue to disintegrate.


In my role as CPO, I’m viewed as the facilitator for our company’s culture. It’s one of the greatest privileges I’ve ever had. In that role, I’ve been able to draw from the hundreds of principles and tools found in our world-class solutions. Recently, I was asked to write a book about the best practices I use when coaching others to build trust, accelerate relationships, advance their careers, solve problems, innovate, and deal effectively with change to create strong work cultures. At the core of every best practice I chose was a principle found in my favorite quote by Dr. Stephen R. Covey, one of our company’s founders and author of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. “All meaningful change comes from the inside out.” In order to change the world (and others), we must first change ourselves.  


It’s with this fundamental truth that I wrote Get Better: 15 Proven Practices to Build Effective Relationships at Work. Below is a list of the 15 practices that I’ve seen  make all the difference in creating successful relationships—thus, transforming our rooms of “hell” into the paradise they can and are meant to be. In upcoming posts, I’ll describe individual practices in detail, the downside of not living it, and offer a few ideas on how you can apply it immediately to the relationships that matter most to you. 


Wear Glasses That Work 

Carry Your Own Weather 

Behave Your Way to Credibility

Play Your Roles Well

See the Tree, Not Just the Seedling 

Avoid the Pinball Syndrome 

Think We, Not Me 

Take Stock of Your Emotional Bank Accounts

Examine Your Real Motives

Talk Less, Listen More

Get Your Volume Right 

Extend Trust

Make it Safe to Tell the Truth

Align Inputs with Outputs

Start with Humility

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Todd Davis

Todd Davis is the author of FranklinCovey’s newest book, Get Better: 15 Proven Practices to Build Effective Relationships at Work, available for pre-order May 9, 2017, and to be released on November 7, 2017. He is also a co-author of Talent Unleashed: 3 Leadership Conversations to Ignite the Unlimited Potential in People.


Davis has over 30 years of experience in human resources, talent development, executive recruiting, sales, and marketing. Having been with FranklinCovey for over 20 years, he currently serves as chief people officer, executive vice president, and is on the executive team. He is responsible for global talent development in over 40 offices in 160 countries. As the former director of FranklinCovey’s Innovations Group, Davis led the development of many of the company’s core offerings. He also served as the company’s director of recruitment, responsible for attracting, hiring, and retaining more than 3,500 employees.


He has delivered numerous keynote addresses and speeches at industry conferences, associations, corporate events, and for FranklinCovey clients, many of which are Fortune® 500 companies. His topics include leadership, personal and interpersonal effectiveness, employee engagement, talent management, change management and building winning cultures. 


Davis has served on the Board of Directors for HR.com and is a member of the Association for Talent Development (ATD) and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).