No one wants to go to work every day dreading the amount of time they are going to spend with his or her boss. At the same time, I don’t know any sane leader who looks forward to having bad relationships with team members. So the question then becomes, why are so many relationships between team members and their leader a major part of the reason people are unhappy at work?
The answer: Most leaders have the equation wrong.
The majority of leaders believe team members are responsible for the relationship with their leader. This belief puts the ownership of worthiness, trust, ability, respect, and work ethic on the shoulders of others.
The correct equation is:
Leaders are responsible for the relationship with each individual their team member.
In this drastically different approach, leaders know they are ultimately the ones responsible for building relationships based on trust, respect, work ethic, forgiveness, and accountability. These leaders model the behaviors they want to see, communicate well with their team, and allow their team members to choose to meet or exceed standards set. This doesn’t mean the relationship isn’t a two-way street, but it means the leader takes ownership and responsibility in it.
Knowing ownership and responsibility of work relationships starts with leaders, here are 7 wise moves you can leverage to strengthen those relationships:
Remove your ego
Ryan Holiday the author of Ego is The Enemy defines ego as “An unhealthy belief in our own importance. The Need to be better than, more than, recognized for far past any reasonable utility.” If this is you, your people won’t want to follow or work hard for you. It’s that simple.
Cy Wakeman the author of No Ego said, “Ego puts a filter on the world that corrupts your relationship with reality.” If you can remove ego from the equation, you’ll remove barriers in your relationships with your team.
Focus on trust with each team member
When I ask, “Who is responsible for the bond of mutual trust between leader and team members?” in our Building the Best Leadership workshops, the overwhelming answer is “team members.”While I appreciate their courage to answer, they’re wrong.
Trust is built between the leader and team member by the actions and behavior of the leader, not the other way around. General Robert Calsen said on the Follow My Lead Podcast, “Trust is a built over time and it’s a byproduct of your competence and character.”
Focus on showing your people you are competent and you have high character and trust will blossom.
Be a good coach
One of the most important skills any leader can improve is their ability to coach people for growth. Unfortunately, most leaders don’t think of themselves as a coach but as a boss.
Michael Bungay Stanier says any leader could be a better coach just by, “staying curious a little bit longer and rushing to advice-giving a little bit slower.” While this is simple in theory it’s difficult in practice.
Start by getting in the habit of asking your people one of three questions when interacting:
- Why did you do it this way?
- How do you think we should do it?
- How might you do it next time?
Put your phone away when interacting
No one likes to see someone else pick up their phone or check their phone in the middle of a conversation. When this happens, it makes us feel much less important than whatever is happening on the phone.
If you are serious about having better relationships with your team members you can’t let your phone dictate your day. Get in a habit of taking your phone off the desk and out of sight during any conversation with a team member.
Embrace and leverage empathy
It’s easy for leaders to get in the habit of assuming every professional on their team is in the same place in their life’s journey. This is never the case. Just because a 40-year old and 30-year-old are doing the same job, they aren’t in the same place on their journey.
Embrace and leverage empathy to put yourself in their shoes so you can act and make decisions differently. The whole point here is to think about the challenges each individual person might be facing so you can align with where they are in life.
Model what you want to see
If you only remember one thing, remember this. People watch everything a leader does whether the leader likes it or not. So the quickest way to improve the relationship with others is to model the behaviors you want to see so the level of mutual respect is higher.
Be fanatical about the example you model because it’s what actions and behaviors you will get from your team.
Ask for feedback about how you’re doing
The number one competency-deficient area we have found in the Elevate Others 360° Assessment is asking for feedback. People want to feel like they are being heard and asking for feedback not only a great way to do this but it also helps the leader improve their self-awareness.
The action of asking for feedback in person, over email, or for a 360° assessment, will create a moment of vulnerability in front of your team that will instantly improve the relationship. One caveat, you must be humble when accepting feedback so you can change your habits and behaviors.
Join the Next Ultimate Leadership Academy Want to become a better leader? Apply to participate in the next Ultimate Leadership Academy. A virtual training program that includes, the EO 360° Assessment, live webinars, and one-on-one coaching. Learn more here.
About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company which exists to turn managers into leaders and create healthier places to work. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training Industry.com. John is also the author the upcoming book Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success and host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.