Leaders who have strong relationship skills paired with a results-oriented focus get the best business results!

Our experience in coaching hundreds of leaders over the past 20 years matches up with research that shows it is the quality of the relationship people have with their leader that drives their engagement and contribution. According to a study by the Center for Creative Leadership, leaders who develop high-quality relationships with their employees are more likely to have engaged, committed, and motivated teams.

In a FORBES August 3, 2022 article, Simone Heng’s research on loneliness in the business sector is cited. Heng’s research emphasizes that “connecting with others is a key part of ensuring your business succeeds.”

How do Strong Relationships Impact Business Performance?

Consider the best leader you have worked with. What was it about that leader that is so memorable? How did you feel about the relationship with that leader? How did you perform under that person’s leadership?

Chances are that a leader had an impact on you due to their ability to build a strong relationship with you. You felt they cared about you. Perhaps cared enough to give you honest feedback focused on your growth and development. Sometimes that feedback stung, however you took it because you knew they were invested in your success. Perhaps there were some difficult times in the business. Somehow that leader had the ability to rally the team together, communicate the good and the bad news, and support the team to move through the challenge together and continue to drive for better results. And you always knew their vision making it easier to contribute high value in your role.

This is how results differ depending on the relationship a leader has with their team members:

As an executive coaching coaching company we see that the power of the relationships a leader has is directly correlated to their team’s ability to solve business problems, generate new ideas and accelerate results.

One Size Does Not Fit All

Relationships are a big topic in our executive coaching programs. When we work with leaders to support them strengthening their relationship skills, it is not about everyone acting the same or building relationships in the same way. It is about being yourself and doing relationship your way. It’s exploring where you are already strong and the parts of building relationship you find more difficult.

We also help leaders understand there are some key elements of relationship that are core to generating the kind of loyalty and trust that are important in business today.  When leaders can build awareness about their strengths, they can leverage these while they expand their range to drive better relationships.

Five Key Elements of Relationship

We use the RQ Relationship Intelligence Model™ which identifies five key elements of relationship. Each of these elements offers leaders a chance to explore the continuum of mindset and technique encompassed in each element. The key to changing our behavior is to understand the assumptions and beliefs that make up our mindset, which then drives our behavior. Without this knowledge we won’t change.

Conversation

Ask someone if they believe they are good at being in conversation with others. Most people would rate themselves pretty high in this skill. Of course I’m good at conversation. I think most of my conversations go really well. Many leaders we work with share this perspective.

When we go deeper into the subskills that encompass good conversation skills the conversation gets a lot more interesting. Some questions we ask leaders to consider are:

  • Do I typically consider others opinions when key decisions are being made? 
  • Before I speak, do I spend a few moments reflecting on the most efficient way to reach my audience/listener?
  • Do I connect authentically with the other person at the beginning of a conversation?
  • Do I avoid distractions and give my full attention during important conversations?
  • Do I take the time to ensure my listener understands context before I present plans and ideas?

It is often surprising what comes up for leaders during this exploration. They begin to see where they might not be as good as they thought they were. And they become conscious of the unintended impact they might be having on their team.

By building your skills in three different areas in conversation: 1. Listening, questioning, and speaking, 2. Being engaged and attentive, and 3. Having purposeful conversations, you can excellent at engaging in conversations no matter what the context or audience.

Safe Haven

If we spoke with your team, what would they tell us about your ability to create a safe place to share ideas and challenge the status quo? What would they say about how well you share the big picture and help them connect the dots to find innovative solutions to challenges? Would they say it is okay to make mistakes on your team, to learn and grow together without fear of being ridiculed or called out in front of others?

Leaders strong in safe haven create the environment for people to thrive and bring all of their passions and talents to the team. They have the ability to see a situation from different perspectives, often letting go of their own points of view in order to open up the space for others to share ideas and come up with out of the box solutions to challenges. The environment these leaders foster inspires creativity and connection.

They paint a clear picture of for the team of how their day to day work flows into the big picture and adds value to the organization. They demonstrate and encourage in their teams resilience when faced with stressful and difficult situations.

They manage their relationships effectively and authentically. Developing relationships consciously and with intention which builds safety and trust with others.

Generosity

What does being generous and loving have to do with achieving strong business results?

A person exceptional in Generosity has empathy and understands the feelings of others. They are optimistic and enjoy giving time and attention to help others around them be successful. Their generosity increases the capacity of others and allows organizations to scale more quickly.

Empathic leaders connect with people on a higher level. Strong empathy skills gives you the power to be a great communicator and can be leveraged to give you more influence in your relationships. These attributes also enable you to you to “read the room” and can help you become great at sensing and resolving issues.

Being loving can be manifested in many ways but overall, it is about being kind and putting others ahead of you. A leader with these traits lifts team members up with their positivity and inspires a fun and optimistic mindset… If you love the people you work with, you will go the extra mile for them, and in the business world, that is the foundation for a successful team.

The final key-value to generosity is problem solving. Generous leaders are invested in supporting peers and other team members to make the best decisions for the business. When they give of their time to lend a hand, this leads to others adopting their collaborative style, solving business issues faster and more effectively than leaders who stay in their own lane.

Candor

A leader who excels at candor, is someone who can bring together a room full of people to focus on a specific problem. Where others are influenced by the emotions and heightened energy of those around them, someone exceptional in Candor stays calm to view the situation with speed and efficiency.

These leaders can control their emotions and think clearly when they’re provoked to act irrationally or out of character. They focus on the root of the problem in such emotional situations and determine how to approach and direct the focus of those around them. Not only are they aware of their own emotional state, but they are adept at seeing ‘the big picture’ to analyze the reasons behind instability in others. What has triggered this person to act out? What are they really saying?

They do not view conflict as a game with a winner and a loser. They look for opportunities to guide the situation towards a ‘winning together’ solution. Their ability to share hard truths with compassion and empathy is what sets them apart and builds solid relationships, often creating stronger bonds after the conflict than before.

Consider the positive business impact when people feel safety and trust in the face of conflict. When they act with courage and confidence and are not afraid to “address the elephant in the room” in service of the success of the business.

Transparency

Leaders who are good at Transparency have an exceptional sense of self. They act with integrity and consistency no matter the situation.

These leaders know that asking for help and owning their own mistakes creates the conditions for others to do the same. They understand the importance of being themselves and being vulnerable to others. The humanity they show creates a high level of connection and loyalty amongst their team and peers.  

When leaders display their fallibility, they create the environment that encourages their teams to speak up about mistakes which creates a healthier future. They promote learning and growth from mistakes which means that recurring issues become minimal in the organization. This leads teams to solve problems faster which impacts business results in a positive way.

The insights leaders have as they explore their ‘Relationship Intelligence’ are invaluable in helping them build stronger relationships with their team and colleagues. Without building stronger relationship you cannot produced the results you need to grow the business.

Relationships are not just nice to have, they are critical to business and personal success!