Effective leaders don’t just manage employees; they make sure employees are motivated, engaged, and inspired. Overlooking these fundamentals can result in job dissatisfaction, loss of valuable employees, low productivity in the workplace, and poor decision-making, among others.
One of the most underrated and foundational aspects of great leadership involves taking the time to build rapport and trust with each of your team members. Whether it’s asking the right questions to support and motivate your team or creating a values-based company culture, making it a priority to build strong relationships with everyone you manage contributes greatly to you and your employees’ success.
The truth is, managers can gain a fresh perspective from their employees. The more they interact with their workforce, the broader their outlook becomes. I wanted that fresh perspective on this topic, so I asked one of my long-time employees to provide feedback on how he and I formed a strong relationship, and how he, in turn, forms great relationships with his employees. Here are a few of his key takeaways, as well as effective leadership skills that you, too, can focus on to build positive relationships that inspire your team.
Five Core Values of Strong Relationships
It all starts with trust. However, trust is earned, not freely given. A manager who leads with openness and an ability to trust their team encourages the team to know that they can do the same. Another important part of building trust is creating an environment where feedback is welcome. Good leaders can earn trust through an open-door policy to show that they value their team’s opinions and encourage feedback without the fear of being met with anger or resentment.
Empathetic leaders relate and consider emotions. Instead of becoming angered or upset with an approach or attitude, focus on making room for the emotions. Strong leaders don’t avoid difficult conversations with their teams; they confront them with grace to discover and resolve the issue.
Leadership is about bringing the best out in others. Successful leaders always look for development opportunities and take time to share the spotlight with others. In my experience, strong leaders take ownership of the errors but share the successes. By empowering your team publicly, you can make team members feel like a valued part of the organization.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned through building foundational bedrock relationships is that good communication is constant and purposeful. Effective communication and effective leadership are closely intertwined. That’s why strong leaders make a point to be friendly and motivate their teams relentlessly.
As a manager, it can be easy to develop such tunnel vision on what you’re trying to accomplish, that you forget that the people you’re leading have lives and other priorities that aren’t directly tied to yours. Taking the time to slow down and genuinely listen shows your ability to pause and focus on your employees, which leads to more effective teamwork and overall better outcomes.
It’s important to remember that the employer-employee relationship is a two-way street. As much as the employer needs to do their part to foster a successful relationship, the employee plays an important role in the dynamic as well. While organizations, leaders, managers, and teams all have a hand in supporting employee engagement, employees are responsible for their own happiness, too.
However, their relationships and environments will naturally impact their connection and engagement in a company. No one has a greater influence on those day-to-day interactions and experiences than leaders, and in turn, that same influence can be projected outward to customers, vendors, and anyone else your team interacts with. That’s why strong relationship building skills and high emotional quotient (EQ) are huge differentiators for a company and its leadership. Here are five more tips leaders can practice daily for effectively building relationships with employees.
Five Daily Habits for Strong Relationships
1. Make Yourself Available
Moving meetings, jumping on calls, assisting with emails, planning strategies, postponing my tasks to help others with theirs – these are simple acts of compassion that aren’t easily forgotten. Showing support while not being taken advantage of can be a balancing act, but when done right I have found the outcomes monumental.
2. Be Transparent
Transparency aligns with trust. It means being open, being honest, willing to own mistakes, and sharing information when I can. We’re all working together towards a shared objective, and I find people are inspired by managers who are transparent with their teams whenever possible.
3. Develop a Strong Work Ethic
Speaking of inspiration, I have learned that having a leader in the trenches alongside you builds morale unlike anything else. Demonstrating a strong work ethic can energize everyone around you when their internal motivation might be running on empty – just be sure to not let it negatively affect your work-life balance.
4. Practice Gratitude
It doesn’t matter how complex the task was, if it was late, or if there was confusion and conflict. No matter what, always make a point to say, “thank you.” Whether through email, a phone call, or a weekly meeting – make sure that you always take the time to share your gratitude with the team.
Let’s face it – everyone has issues or struggles, even if they’re not visible. Rather than letting the problems consume you, putting on a happy face – like smiling through meetings and maintaining a positive outlook – can be palpable and an effective way to inspire your team.
Great Relationships Aren’t Built Overnight
Building foundational, bedrock relationships with your team takes time and effort, but the results are clear: employees feel valued, celebrated, motivated, and heard. And that’s a foundation that can be built upon and expanded for years to come. Strong relationships will elevate you and your team to new heights.