Relationship-Building Leadership: Making a Cohesive Team

Why is relationship-building important in leadership? What type of qualities are required to build relationships in the workplace?

Leaders who possess relationship-building skills are great at helping teams work together. They keep the environment positive by making people feel comfortable and respected.

Discover more about the relationship-building leadership type, as read in Strengths Based Leadership by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie.

Relationship-Building as a Leader

Relationship-building leadership is what helps your team perform as a cohesive whole. Conchie and Rath characterize this strength with sub-qualities such as optimism and compassion. For example, if you’re a relationship builder, you may be able to keep your team’s spirits up during a difficult day, which ultimately helps them perform better and complete the necessary objective. You’re also able to relate to individuals and mentor them to help them feel included and valuable to the team, which will help them work better together.

We’ll explore what relationship-building looks like by examining the success of Mervin Davies, a former CEO of Standard Chartered. He credits his success to his investment in relationships. In particular, he emphasizes a few relationship-building habits:

1. By communicating honestly and openly with his employees about the decisions he made for his company, he earned their trust, which is essential for good relationships.

2. Davies also trusted his employees by empowering them with responsibility and freedom. By knowing his own capabilities and the capabilities of people around him, he was able to assign people to tasks they’re suited to handle and free himself to do what he does best as an executive, coaching people.

3. By listening to his team, he got to know their strengths and deepened his relationships with them. This way, he knew how to empower individuals on his team more effectively.

(Shortform note: In Leadership Strategy and Tactics, Jocko Willink similarly emphasizes the importance of communication and relationship-building on your team. Willink suggests spending time with your team by getting to know their role and how they feel about it. This could look like a casual conversation with your teammate, or you might even ask them to physically teach you what they do. By doing this, you and your teammates will better understand each other’s perspectives, which will in turn build trust and strengthen your relationships, as Gallup and Davies recommend. Similarly, learning more about your teammates’ roles may also help you better understand their strengths so that you can offer them more responsibility.) 

Actionable: Respect Your Relationships and Help People Feel Valued

If you’re a leader who builds relationships, you’re likely someone whom people trust and confide in. Thus, you’re a vessel for sensitive information about others. The authors emphasize that you should respect this privilege and honor the people who trust you by keeping their conversations between the two of you. When people know they can trust you, your relationships will deepen.

If you have a relationship builder on your team, take advantage of their ability to make others feel valued. Connect them with other key people that you’d like to keep in your organization.

Build Relationships on Common Ground

One meaningful way to connect with others is to be open about the stress you’re going through. In The Upside of Stress, Kelly McGonigal explains that people are often hesitant to be open about their stress because they feel like what they’re experiencing is uncommon and that they’ll be judged for it. However, if you normalize stress by discussing it openly and being honest with others about your personal stress, you’ll make your team feel comfortable opening up to you in return. By cultivating an open environment for honest conversations, you can make your team feel comfortable enough to tell you whether the responsibilities you’ve delegated to them are overwhelming.

Additionally, you can deepen relationships by effectively listening to your team. Conchie and Rath mention that understanding your team will help you determine what role is best fit for them, which can help you mentor and coach them more effectively. To understand your team members more fully, you can also do some research on their backgrounds and interests. For example, you could read their LinkedIn profile, ask them how they enjoy spending their time, or ask them about their goals and how you can help them achieve them. 
Relationship-Building Leadership: Making a Cohesive Team

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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