The effective leader realizes that the team under them is there because they have to be. Most employees work to earn money, not because they enjoy the daily grind of a nine-to-five. For this reason, there must be an effort to build healthy relationships, or life in the workplace can become untenable for everyone, employee engagement will suffer and productivity will decline.
The most effective way to understand how other people are feeling is to listen to what they have to say. This must be done without judging, and not as though you are being forced to do so by some higher authority. Very often, team members will have the same goals as their leaders, but may just want to know that they are not seen as automatons that have no creative input. Great leaders have learned to ask questions, listen intently and include the input from team members in their plans.
Quality workplace relationships make people feel happy and keep them engaged. One of the major reasons why employees move on from a company is because of relationship clashes, primarily with leaders, but also with other colleagues. Being aware of the impact your own behaviors will have on the various members of your team should play a significant role in your own leadership development plan.
Respect is the key ingredient of any good relationship, and this means respect for yourself as well as others. Genuinely listening and understanding are the ways in which you show that you respect the person you are talking to. Quickly judging based on preconceived ideas or prejudice is the opposite of having respect. Bear in mind that not everyone will respond in 100% perfect fashion to all that occurs in the workplace. Although it is not the leader’s job to be a permanent shoulder to cry on, it is important to accept that your team is made up of individuals whose lives may not be as perfect as their coffee-break banter might lead you to believe.
While creating a healthy working relationship is a crucial goal, the smart leader will always bear in mind that conflict is inevitable and must be managed, rather than ignored for the sake of apparent peace. Managing conflict effectively requires open lines of communication, trust and respect.
Relationships can never improve unless problems are identified and confronted. Differences between people are inevitable, and hearing them aired can lead to some very useful resolutions that produce ideas beyond the expected. The alternative is highly detrimental: to let problems fester and build, ruin the atmosphere in a workplace, lower employee engagement and ultimately decrease productivity levels.