Growing Your Relationships
As a leader or team member, one of the main challenges involved with working on a successful team is to maintain individual relationships. This results in growing your relationship with the team as a whole. This involves creating your unique identity as a member of the team. There are various indicators of where you are currently standing with your team, and very careful attention should be paid to these if your overall success is a goal.
The relationship is a fundamental descriptive term of the connection of one person or object to another. We can use it to describe how one thing relates to another in terms of distance, size, or performance as well as many other factors. When two humans are involved some more complex units of measurements are used. As leaders we need to be constantly observing and analyzing our relationships to other people so that we can harness the positive power of relationships to achieve our goals.
How to Grow our Relationships?
Some people travel through live building and dismantling relationships with no mindful awareness of what they are actually doing. We may chalk it up to feelings, moods, and desires. The effects are still there. There is a substance between two things that can be described and analyzed, and our every action has a direct affect. Once we understand that there does exist substance between any two things and that substance has a direct impact on attributes like influence and trust, we can begin to use the fruits of positively building into relationships to achieve the greater goals of the team.
1) Connect With Your Team:
The first way to positively build relationships is to connect with your team. If there is no connection, the relationship between two people will remain stagnant and lack any growth at best, more likely the relationship suffers negative growth. Connection is key here. There must be some connection between a leader and their team, or a team member to team member in order to allow a relationship to be present. In almost all references to relationships where I apply it to a leader and their team, we can substitute in any two humans.
Depending on the stage of the relationship, any connection is better than no connection at all. Physical interaction, conversation, and general convergence or coming together are some ways in which a connection will take place. There has to be some physical or mental proximity for this to happen. A relationship will remain stagnant if there is no mental or physical engagement and proximity is remote. This can be summed up to presence.
There are no limits to types of mental or physical proximity. Take for example how long-distance relationships are built on the internet. They undoubtedly have their own sets of challenges and barriers, however, there is still substance there. I would also acknowledge the deep relationships forged by networking in general over modern age technology. As long as mental and/or physical proximity exists, relationships are likely to exist.
2) Relate With Your Team:
Relate is the root English word for relationship. This concept is important to understand because it is the foundation of what we are doing. This is akin to saying I am like you, you are like me, and we are alike. Relating with someone can be described as a feeling of mutual existence. In leadership, we seek to make the connection and establish this likeness with those that we lead. As humans, we can all relate because we are all alike in this way. We all mutually exist as humans, dwelling in human bodies, and this is a good starting point after a connection is made to begin the relating process.
While you can relate emotionally and spiritually, a general seeking to physically relate to someone is a good strategy to begin your journey. This means speaking, listening, maintaining eye contact, and sharing common goals. When a team member knows that they share the common goals of a leader, a connection is made. The relationship has formed and now it is time to foster the relationship. Share your goals, listen to their goals, and build from that foundation. Most relationships in business and leadership begin with a physical relationship between two people. This means words exchanged in physical proximity, the first handshake, troubleshooting problems in a shared physical space, or other like activities where physical presence is one of the key relationship factors between the two.
If there is no relating, than there can be no relationship. Time and effort are both greatly required here to make sure that you as a leader are fostering the feelings that both you and your team are alike. Common goals may be earnings, success, pride, or just to be a part of something bigger than yourselves as an individual.
3) Work Beside Your Team:
This builds on relating with your team. Once the relationship has formed, this is the key step in building that relationship positively. We have established thus far that we share common goals, we are alike, and we are a collectively a part of something larger than ourselves individually. Working beside the team then demonstrates that you, too care about the collective whole and are not above being a member of that same collective whole as the rest of the team members are. If you are a leader and you are hiding while they are working, then it is arguable if you are a leader. This statement can be situational in application when regarding tall corporate or team structures and the type of work differs greatly depending on the job, however, it will be apparent if a leader is not doing their share of the work load.
For lower level managers, physically "getting out there and working beside them" is one of the single most important relationship building strategies to forge a tight-knit team. This is one of the most fun and rewarding situations a leader can be in. The connections that my crew and I build upon were some of the strongest connections I have ever built with people when I was a floor level team leader. Years later you will still hold on to some of the deep friendships that you craft during your time building relationships with a team in this way.
4) Grow With Your Team:
Let them know it. Allow your team to know that you are a human and you have potential just as they do and you grow as they grow. Allow them to see you learn as they learn. Ask them for permission to learn from them and to engage in tests and experiments with you so that you may both take away from the experience. Be very vocal in engaging them in this way. Let it be known your desire for both of you to grow.
Benefits and Applications of Growing Relationships:
If I had a limited amount of time to talk about the benefits of growing relationships with team members, I would start with trust. Trust is a magical emotion that transcends humans. We can witness trust across species. I think of the loyal dog who trusts his owner. Inside the home with the family, the core of the relationships are hopefully built on trust. Lack of trust can destroy relationships, while an excess of trust in the bank can ensure that a relationship can weather any storm. When you have a team that trusts you, you are given permission by your team to lead them anywhere and do anything.
There is much to be said about the technical applications of a positive relationship and the tools you can use once you possess a certain level of relationship with another. In terms of leadership my mind wonders towards delegatory authority. If a relationship is built in the correct way, your team will trust you to use them in a positive way as a means to achieve a common goal. Many layers of ethical leadership behavior and integrity become involved when this occurs. If a leader isn't an ethically sound person that resonates integrity who has built relationships with his team, he will not remain trusted for very long.
Maintaining Relationships Once Grown:Once established, it is just as important that a leader maintain his relationships as it was that he sought to create them in the first place. I want to talk about direct methods of doing this. I am talking about listening, understanding, and being empathetic. I am talking about really caring for his team. When you really trust someone and you get a half-hearted "I know", you feel this. A team member is able to feel when you deeply care for them, because the relationship that was forged out of physical or mental proximity and technique usually transcends to a level of emotional relationship where real feelings are involved. When we are talking about team members personal lives that they trust you with, they as people can feel if you are genuine or not. It will be a sad down-hill road if you have risen to a level of leadership only to oust yourself because you were never genuinely ready to lead people because of your lack of compassion.
Some Final Thoughts on Relationships:
It is important to understand that the relationship is not just a word, but a substance in itself. It is important to understand that this applies especially to leadership, but we could remove leadership from the equation and refer to two people and the principles of relationships still apply. Relationship can be used to describe any two things if we remove humans or even living beings out of discussion and the description of things would resemble some fundamental qualities that are more deeply understood when we apply it to humans. This is important to understand due to the study of relationships will eventually give way to philosophical discussion. The very existence of matter and existence share relationship with itself, and any two pieces of matter's relationship can be analyzed. This reverberates with the essence of leadership and its potential depth.
In my experience as a leader of a team of men and woman, one of the most satisfying parts of my job is the ability to just have relationships with them. In life, there are so few situations where you build trust with other humans, have compassion for them, deeply care about them. I think about how much I love my wife and children and how I am the leader of my family, and then I think about how our relationships in our home are the core of our connected existence to one another. I then further this thought with how connected I am with my team at work, how deeply I care about them. Perhaps this substance is different than the substance of relationship that exists between my wife and I, however, substance still exists and building the relationships of those that you lead is one of the most rewarding experiences that you can encounter.