Originally published on Forbes.com on September 5, 2018.
As a leader, your primary job is to motivate and guide your team to reach their goals. However, you won’t be able to accomplish this if your team doesn’t feel a sense of trust and loyalty to you.
One of the best things you can do to establish that connection with your team members is focus on building strong personal relationships with them. It takes time and ongoing effort, but maintaining those relationships is well worth it to have a committed, collaborative team. The experts of Forbes Coaches Council recommend the following tactics to strengthen your bonds with your direct reports.
All images courtesy of Forbes Councils members.
1. Hold Regular Individual Meetings
Established, regular touch points with a leader builds confidence and relationships. An “open door” policy doesn’t cut it. As a leader, you must reach out to your team, not the other way around. Have short meetings with a basic agenda where your team member can share his/her thoughts, concerns and ideas. You can also give constructive feedback for their personal development on an ongoing basis. – Erin Urban, UPPSolutions, LLC
2. Include Everyone In Decision Making
The easiest thing leaders can do on a regular basis to strengthen relationships with their reports is to include them in decision making. Asking “What do you think” or “What are your thoughts” will begin to build trust, engage reports and provide a sense of responsibility. When there is shared decision making, morale is higher. Inclusivity brings trust, engagement, responsibility and motivation. – Dr. Sharon H. Porter, Perfect Time SHP LLC
3. Ask For Feedback On Your Management Style
We’re used to managers giving feedback to their reports, but how often do you ask for it? “How am I doing as a leader and what can I do better?” can be the most powerful questions you can ask. At first, it will be strange for a report to give the honest answer. But when you can get to the point where you are getting honest answers and using that feedback to grow, relationships build quickly. – David Butlein, Ph.D., BLUECASE Strategic Partners
4. Make Time For Small Talk
Employees want their leaders to get to know them as human beings, not just workers. In addition to task-oriented conversations, ask your people what they did over the weekend, not just if it was a good weekend. Inquire about the family or vacation photo on their desk. Listen well. Showing your employees that you care about them as humans and not just “task completers” will go a long way. – Loren Margolis, Training & Leadership Success LLC
5. Ask, Listen, Respond And Recognize
Too often, leaders get so caught up in the day to day, they forget their reports are people with feelings. People perform at a much higher level when they know they’re seen, heard and valued. To communicate this, take time every week to ask your reports what’s working and what’s not. Listen to their answers. Respond with solutions. And recognize a job well done on a regular basis. – Stephanie Nivinskus, SizzleForce Marketing
6. Be Transparent About Your Mission And Methodology
Sharing your methodology regularly with your team helps strengthen the communication lines between leader and reports. Showing you care about their development and their goals both personal and professional makes you an invaluable mentor. Once your team understands your mission and methodology it creates a common language, forming a common bond that both parties can work off of for years to come. – Stephynie Malik, ChiqueSpeak
7. Focus On The S.M.A.L.L. Things
The key to building relationship currency is through authentic connections. Leaders can do this consistently by remembering the S.M.A.L.L. things: Show thanks often; Motivate your team; Acknowledge and award hard work; Lead by example; and Learn from your team as much as you teach. The S.M.A.L.L. model creates a two-way exchange you can build on. – Tameka Williamson, Celestial & Associates Consulting
8. Be Thoughtful
Leaders should know their reports personally as well as professionally. This means doing at least a little something for their birthday, knowing preferences that come up daily (she likes tea, not coffee), genuinely asking about their kids, their spouse or their pets, and noticing when something is off. If someone is overly tired or uncharacteristically upset, inquire if they want to share and listen. – Cha Tekeli, Chalamode, Inc.
9. Act On Their Feedback
Many leaders have regular weekly or monthly meetings where brainstorming and feedback occurs. Often when the meeting ends, that is where the creative ideas die or are put on the shelves with no further actions taken. An easy way to strengthen relations is to simply value their feedback and to implement their ideas. When employees feel heard, a new sense of employer/employee connectedness happens. – Arlene Donovan, Turning Point Coaching LLC
10. Acknowledge Your Employees With A Smile
It sounds so simple, but when we humans are stressed and/or are in deep in thought, our jaw clenches, resulting in a look of annoyance. To add perceived insult to injury, leaders who are driven by urgency and a destination become myopic and may fail to recognize those around them. A simple acknowledgment of reports will alleviate the fear that the leader is “mad” or unapproachable. – Deborah Goldstein, DRIVEN Professionals