“When leadership is a relationship founded on trust and confidence, people take risks, make changes, keep organizations and movements alive.” – James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner
Have you ever noticed that its much easier to get things done when you are working with people you trust? I certainly have. There is ease, satisfaction, and sometimes even joy working towards a common goal with those whom you’ve developed solid relationships. I’ve also noticed that leaders who focus first on building relationships often are far more successful, than those who are singularly focused on getting things done. People naturally want to work with leaders who care about them and are invested in their success.
In their classic book The Leadership Challenge, Kouzes and Posner relay numerous case stories and research studies that reinforce the importance of relationship-building skills for leaders. According to their 20 years of research, leaders who experience the most success are those who demonstrate strong social skills, get along well with others, take time to build relationships with their subordinates, and work to see a situation from someone else’s point of view.
Knowing how important social skills are, what can leaders do to enhance their ability to build solid, trusting relationships? Here are a few thoughts:
- Engage: Open up dialogue by asking good questions. Questions about people’s expertise and point of view are great starting points to build relationships. Just a simple, “What do you think?” question can be a good start.
- Listen: Let other people talk and then pay attention. Focus on what people are trying to convey and reflect back what you’ve heard. Take time to understand what other people do. Stay open to new ideas and embrace learning new things from others.
- Acknowledge: Value people’s contributions. Give credit to others for their contributions and successes. Celebrate accomplishments of your team. People are always more motivated to work hard and try new things if their efforts are acknowledged.
Most important, remember that relationships take continual care and feeding. It’s not a one and done proposition. When I think back to the best teams I have led, holding regular 1:1 meetings with each of my staff helped to make them feel supported, kept communication on track, and built strong relationships.
What tips do you have for building solid, trusting relationships with your team?