How Great Leaders Build Strong Relationships
You might think leadership would be easy if it wasn’t for people. Try sending everyone home! Now what?
You’re an individual contributor – not a leader – when you work in isolation.
Relationship and performance:
Feeling connected makes difficult work easier and boring work more enjoyable.
- Who brings their best to work?
- Who goes the extra mile?
- Who digs in when the hill is steep?
We bring our best when we care about the people we serve.
Relationship and meaning:
Relationship infuses meaning into work. Think of the difference between kissing your mom, your spouse, or one of your kids.
Strong relationships make work matter.
Relationship and results:
Strong relationships produce remarkable results as long as people work to achieve shared goals.
The hard things in management are easier when people feel respected and appreciated.
When you care, you give your best. Those who care commit to bring advantage to those they care about.
#1. Commit to build relationships.
The person with the higher position is responsible to initiate relationship. Don’t wait for people to build relationships with you.
#2. Connect on a human level.
The person with authority or power sets the tone of the relationship.
Do you sit behind your desk when people enter your office? You might eliminate physical barriers if you hope to connect emotionally.
#3. Practice perspective taking.
Relationships are annoyances to overworked leaders.
When you’re in a hurry, you don’t have time to respect someone’s point of view. Questions for perspective taking:
- How well do you know each team member?
- How well do your team members think you know them?
- How are you seeking to understand other people’s situations?
- How many options have you explored together?
- How are you evaluating the depth of understanding you are communicating to others?
How important are relationships to successful leadership? (On a scale from 1:10)
How might leaders build strong relationships with team members?
Leadership as Relationship: Why “We” matters more than “I” (CQ Network)
4 Relationship Skills You Need in the Office (CCL)
Rilke described immersion in relationships:
“to meet, greet, and protect” the Other.
To connect, openly share good will (kiss?), and commit to safe conduct?
Less poetic, but no less comprehensible as the way to induce truth and trust.
Thanks Rurbane. Good seeing you again today. Bringing the word “protect” into the conversation speaks to me. It feels powerful. When I believe someone is committed to protect me, it strengthens trust….
Thanks, Dan! This gives credence to my philosophy on leadership. Early in my career, I hung my hat on Communication as the key. But as I have traversed my leadership path, I now stake my claim on Relationships as THE key leadership characteristic. As my relationships go, so will follow my overall leadership…
Thanks Jordan. Looks like you’ve made some great choices. I think so many of leadership’s frustrations are solved or minimized when leadership is about relationship.
Great as usual Dan,
I had to also realize as I grew, was that relationships do not equal being liked.
I feel as a leader it can be a fine line at times.
Thanks Tom. You bring up an important topic. Someone should write about that.
Managing people remotely requires a completely different set of skills and a change in culture.
Some will thrive in isolation others not so depending on their social style. Getting to understand who needs more support than others is a start.
Leading in isolation means you can’t hear what’s being said around the water cooler. You can’t personally coach and mentor others on the spot when you see they need it. Try having a morning and late afternoon huddle via video conferencing so people feel more connected. Have them share something no one knows about them or better still, have fun with it. Have them share three things, two are true and one is not – the others guess the one that’s not. Have them send through baby photos and guess who is who. Just as there is an element to social in an office environment, remember to keep a little social online.
Get creative with your leadership and understand – working in isolation may not go away as we come through this pandemic. Recruiters may have to change their criteria for leaders and candidates and include screening for those who can build relationships while working and leading in isolation.
Leading in isolation is very much like building a relationship online. Take LinkedIn for instance, it’s all about making connections and forming relationships.
Thanks Carolyn. My eyes fix on the idea of scheduled times to connect. Rituals create a feeling of stability, dependability, and reliability.
Leadership cannot occur without building relationship both internally and externally. With this in mind, our most valuable asset is our people, team, and the human connection we make on their behalf. In a time of technology and demands, losing sight of that human connection will lead to failure – in the people, organization, and/or goal. If the organization lacks this human capital aspect in their strategic goals, it is misguided. Relationships “make the world go around.” From national security to taking care of our neighbors, it is the “Soul of America.”
I am committed to reimagining a new normal without compromise to the human connection and spirit!
Thanks Kishla. If you want to fail neglect people. 🙂 Technology is the channel, not the answer.
Everything that I have ever learned about strong teams and strong leadership has finally come to fruition with my current job. Prior to this job, I absolutely did not think that it was possible to enjoy going to work every day. We started with nothing (and I do mean nothing) and built an entire chemical plant together. Along the way, we had some ups and downs, but once we got rid of the bad seeds and the people who did not share our goals, we formed a very strong bond. We support each other (both work and family lives), we build each other up and most of all, we care. I have always loved what I do for a living, but after 15 years of what felt like torture, I finally love that people that I share it with as well. Great, now I’m feeling all fuzzy inside…
Thanks Tanya. I think others will enjoy the confirmation that we can enjoy work. It’s all about the people and the way we treat each other. I’d wager that building a chemical plant is secondary. It could have been another product. The joy is in the people and the work environment.
Building strong work relationships with both the people you manage and those who manage you are essential to a healthy, efficient, and productive work force.
Building these relationships can be tricky though. Finding common ground between yourself and another takes time, dedication, and attention to detail. Some people do not want or feel comfortable with finding any working relationship connection with the people they work with. For those that are open to it, there is always a line that will make them feel uncomfortable if crossed, which is always unique to each person. One person may be comfortable with discussing family with coworkers while they may shun talk of coworkers, both positive or negative. Others may be open to talk about everything in their lives while others want all conversations to be strictly business related.
Finding that line in each employee is the hardest part. It is usually best to start with business first with a little test of personal thoughts in the moment of peace. Peace being when work is going well and the mood is positive. If they respond positively to the comment other conversations could be beneficial to further that relationship. Always be attentive to how much a person is willing to share with you. If they seem reluctant, back off. If they are very open, and you are comfortable with that type of conversation, move forward. Never forget to keep the conversation appropriate for your work setting, you never know who can hear you or how they will react to your topic.
Now all of this sounds like conversation on a first date. It kind of is. While the work always takes precedence, having a positive connection with coworkers engenders trust in each other, each others work, and willingness to help each other even when the work is outside the the job scope of the assisting individual. The same is seen between buddies who loan each other money, or a girlfriend or boyfriend who helps with his or her partners chores at the other persons house. A strong relationship works both ways while strengthening the roles of both people involved.
Building relationships with the people you work with is important in order to have a more enjoyable work experience and, also, in order to work better with your coworkers as a team. I have had two totally different experiences when it comes to a relationship with my supervisor. At my previous job, there was not much effort on my supervisor’s end to create individual relationships with my coworkers and I. He would check in on us to make sure we were getting work done, but never on a personal level. My team members and I were micromanaged, yet did not feel a sense of closeness nor comfort in reaching out to our boss with issues or concerns. On the other hand, my current supervisor and I have a very good relationship because she makes a point to go out of her way to check in on my coworkers and me not only professionally but personally, too. It shows that she actually cares about our well-being. She also makes sure that my team members and I are all working together okay and do not have any issues. If we do, we are encouraged to go talk to her. This makes a huge difference in a positive way. Because of this, I think relationships should be ranked of high importance to successful leadership. On a scale of 1 to 10, I would rank this at a level 9. Leaders can build strong relationships with team members by showing that he or she cares about their workers. Simply reaching out in a one-on-one conversation and checking on them, personally and professionally, is a step to gaining trust and building a relationship.
Without relationships, not much would get done. For a functional, efficient group or organization, good relationships are paramount. This applies to all aspects in life. In a family, everyone must co-operate to have things run smoothly. In an organization, you need relationships with outside companies, to get supplies, and people inside the company to get information and tasks passed along. Because of how important relationships are, it is imperative that a leader builds strong relationships in their team. is a 10/10 paramount importance, because if the team does not have good relationships, they will not work well together. If everyone does not have a good relationship with their leader, that can result in a plethora of other issues. Some of these could be the workers not being engaged in their work, not being motivated and overall a complete decrease in productivity around the team. Building relationships must start with the leader of the group. This is important to set an example, and an expectation of what relationships should be, in order to encourage strong healthy ones that will enable a healthy workplace and efficient and happy workers, as opposed to unhealthy relationships which can tear apart the workplace and the group as a whole.
I work in an environment that is filled with strong leaders. My boss, in particular, leads by building relationships, and it took me quite a while to get used to that.
When I started working where I work now, I subconsciously waited for her to stop being relational and become rude or mean. I didn’t realize that I was doing that until she called me into her office one afternoon. She said, “Kenlie, will you stop? You’re doing great work, and when there’s an issue we’ll address it.” I explained to her that I wasn’t accustomed to so much kindness and communication from my boss, and a few years later, I still appreciate it. I’ve also stopped wondering if she’s going to yell at me at some point because she’s not going to.
It’s interesting. Working remotely has made it even clearer that communication is important and that relationships are even more important. We discussed this today during a Zoom meeting because, at the end of the month, we’re going to have to find ways to help a new person on our team to acclimate while working remotely. In doing that, it will be important to make time for our co-workers and to really invest in them because when we work together as a team, we’re usually successful.
Thanks Mr.Dan for another good post.
I would like to add to your quote if you don’t mind.
It is my belief that in order to be a strong leader you must build a strong team with strong relationships. You are absolutely right Mr.Dan, you can not lead alone or in isolation. It takes having relationships with others to not only be a strong leader, but also to build a community of individuals that are willing to help to serve toward a common goal to accomplish any task these days.
As a leader you must be able to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each team player. Also establish how each team player will contribute to the team and build on that. Once that is established you can work on common goals with positive energy and with the right dialogue. Of course this is what we all look for at every board meeting, but in reality it takes time to build a team, just as it takes time to build the person. Invest in oneselves and one another and attend in-services, educational luncheons, or take up a short class to be taught how to lead and to be the best strong leader that tomorrow will need. We need strong leaders now, not the next generation!
Hi, Dan. Your line “Think of the difference between kissing your mom, your spouse, or one of your kids” made me laugh. Relationships infuse so much meaning into work and can make or break a work environment. I have experienced two very different work environments. At my previous job, I had a very controlling, type A, micromanaging boss. She would keep a notebook of how long employees spent in the restroom and everything we did wrong. She did not trust us and it made for a very toxic environment. Working there was not enjoyable at all because of the relationships my former boss made with her employees. Everyone was so miserable that it created an environment where no one really bonded.
My current job is the complete opposite. I have an excellent relationship with my current supervisors and coworkers. We are a small, tightknit group, that meshes very well together. My boss checks in with the group and each of us individually and this has created an environment that is caring and positively affects our work.
I think leaders have the opportunity to build strong relationships by getting to know their employees on a personal level. Showing your employees that you care about them inside and outside of work really goes a long way.