It can be challenging for new leaders to balance between being respected and approachable. However, building a relationship with your team members is crucial for their development and your success as a leader. In fact, bosses who develop relationships with their team members also help those team members to develop their own resiliency.
Relationships Create Psychological Safety
One of the most significant benefits of building a relationship with your team is the creation of a sense of psychological safety. Psychological safety is the belief that one can take risks and be vulnerable in front of others without fear of negative consequences. This creates an environment where team members feel free to try new ways of doing things, delight their customers, and share ideas without fear of retribution. Team members who feel safe are more likely to be engaged, and their engagement often translates into better performance.
A strong relationship with a boss is at the root of feeling secure and safe. When team members feel that their boss values them as individuals, they are more likely to be committed to their work and to the team’s goals. As a result, they are more likely to take ownership of their work and produce higher quality results.
According to a study in the International Journal of Industrial, Occupational and Organizational Psychology and Behavior, Authors Abraham Carmeli and Jody Hoffer Gittell found that leaders who develop high-quality relationships with team members can create a culture of psychological safety. These relationships were developed by providing support, empathy, and trust to the individuals, and such relationships can lead to increased learning from previous failures, therefore improving performance.
Examples From Business: Google and Southwest Airlines
To further illustrate this point, let’s examine a couple of examples from the business world. First, let’s consider Google, a company that consistently ranks as a “best places to work.” Google has long been known for its emphasis on employee relationships and psychological safety. By providing a culture where employees feel psychologically safe and supported, Google creates an environment that fosters creativity and innovation.
Another example is Southwest Airlines, which despite some recent setbacks, is consistently ranked as one of the best-performing airlines in the United States. Southwest’s employees are known for their positive attitude and excellent customer service – allowing their unique personalities to shine through without punishment or reprisal. Southwest places a significant emphasis on employee development, which includes how to create exceptional relationships among team members and leaders. By valuing their employees and creating a culture of empowerment, Southwest’s employees are motivated to provide exceptional customer service.
Example From the World of Sports: Coach Phil Jackson
Phil Jackson is known as a leader who developed strong relationships with his team members, which he did as the former head coach of the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association (NBA).
During his tenure with both teams, Jackson was known for building strong relationships with his players and became known by the nickname “Zen Master”. He emphasized open communication, harmony, mutual respect, and trust as the foundation of his coaching style. He believed that by developing relationships, he could create a culture where players felt comfortable taking risks and trying new things on the court. This relationship-based approach paid off in a big way for Jackson and his teams.
Phil Jackson – Michael Jordan
Phil Jackson led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships in the 1990s, and the Los Angeles Lakers to five championships in the 2000s. Many of his players, including Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O’Neal, credit Coach Jackson with helping them develop their skills, both on and off the court.
For example, during the 1997-1998 season, Jordan was dealing with personal issues and had lost his father earlier in the year. Jackson knew that Jordan was struggling and took the time to offer his support. Jordan later said that this conversation helped him get through one of the toughest times in his life. Jordan shared that he felt that Jackson genuinely cared about him as a person, not just as a player.
Phil Jackson’s style was on full display in the documentary, “The Last Dance” when discussing his final season coaching the Chicago Bulls. Knowing that he was going to be terminated at the end of the season and the team would be broken up, he used that to further strengthen the bond among the players. He became even more trusted, especially managing the strong personalities on the team, including Michael Jordan, Scotty Pippen, and Dennis Rodman.
Phil Jackson – Kobe Bryant
Similarly, when Kobe Bryant was a young player with the Lakers, he had a reputation for being both difficult to coach and a selfish player. Coach Jackson took the time to build a relationship with Bryant, getting to know him on a personal level and helping him develop his leadership skills. Bryant later said that he felt that his relationship with Jackson was more than just a coach–he was a mentor and a friend.
These examples show how a leader who takes the time to build relationships with their team can help those team members develop their resiliency, a key characteristic of effective teams. By creating a culture of psychological safety, team members are more likely to take risks, try new things, and perform at their best without fear. As a new leader, taking the time to build these relationships can be one of the most effective ways to build trust, laying the foundation for a strong and successful team.
A Lesson for New Leaders
As a new leader, it’s essential to prioritize building individual relationships with your team members. By creating a culture of psychological safety, you’ll foster an environment where team members can take risks, try new things, and produce their best work. As demonstrated by Google, Southwest Airlines, and Phil Jackson, developing strong relationships with team members can have a significant, positive impact on driving for results. As you start your leadership journey, remember that your team’s success is your success, and investing in your team is always a wise choice.
New leaders who develop strong relationships with their team members can help those team members develop resiliency, which can lead to increased performance and success. Building a relationship with a boss creates psychological safety and a feeling of security, allowing team members to take risks, try new things, and delight customers.
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