Building relationships is one of the most important parts of leadership. It may seem obvious, but your team needs to trust you in order for you to lead them. Trust can be such a broad term, so let’s break it down. What is it that they need to trust? Is it in your character, your decisions, your abilities, or your motives? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. All of these things are vital for your team to respect you. But, let’s not start with you. Let’s start with them. They need to trust that you know and care about them.
Your team is made up of individuals. Each individual has their own set of personal goals, their own perspective, their own strengths, weaknesses, and fears. In order to influence your team, you need to know what drives them individually. There also needs to be room for compassion and empathy. Your team members want to be understood. They want to know that you, their boss, has their back, and not because you have to, but because you believe in them and you can empathise with them. You cannot empathise with what you aren’t sure of.
How do you get started?
Use the questions below to start learning about your team. They were taken from Jack Canfield’s 2005 book, The Success Principles. Jack describes attending Dan Sullivan’s “Strategic Coach Program” where he was taught to use these questions as a way to establish rapport and connection with another person. (Canfield, 2005, Pg 327)
1. If we were meeting three years from today, what has to have happened during that three-year period for you to feel happy about your progress?
2. What are the biggest dangers you’ll have to face and deal with in order to achieve that progress?
3. What are the biggest opportunities that you have that you would need to focus on and capture to achieve those things?
4. What strengths will you need to reinforce and maximize, and what skills and resources will you need to develop that you don’t currently have in order to capture those opportunities?
These questions are powerful tools you can use to build better relationships with the people you are leading.
Prepare for your meeting with your team member by carving out some time in your schedule, and invite them to sit down with you. This can be done over coffee, a meal, or can be somewhere quiet, but make sure you will be able to give your full attention. Make the intention to understand them, not to be understood.
We forget how powerful giving someone our attention can be. Show you’re fully present by turning off your phone, or putting it away. Make eye contact, and listen, not just to the answers they give, but try to gain a sense of what is behind the answers.
Disingenuous attempts at building trust will be caught. If your motivation is a selfish one, your team will pick up on that, and it will move you further from building a trusting relationship with them.
See where the conversation takes you and see where you can identify with your team member. You’re likely to find common ground, and you’ll definitely uncover some truths about what motivates them. Not only will this help you, but when they see that you’re genuine about these questions, and about your interest in them, they’ll feel closer to you and feel a sense of trust that may have been lacking before.
Hall, L. (2019). Coach Your Team. Nottingham: Penguin Random House.
Canefield, J. (2005). The Success Principles. US: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd 2005.