Strength in Numbers

Team Relationships

By following these four key principles, organizations can build strong teams to reduce turnover.

By Dr. Randy Ross

People and organizations thrive in relationally rich environments. When organizations put people above profits, their priorities produce rich dividends both culturally and economically. The heart of any business is its people, and the best organizations serve people well, both internally and externally.

While this may seem to be common sense, applying principles that nourish healthy relationships in the workplace is not common practice. Poor relationships will almost always lead to poor performance. Conversely, crafting a culture where people play well together in the sandbox will reap rich returns. By employing the following four fundamental relational principles, leaders can cultivate healthy relationships, develop strong teams, reduce turnover, and experience organizational growth.

1. Intentionality. Wherever people gather, there will be a culture. Culture is built on values, beliefs, and behaviors. That culture is either going to be by design, giving it thoughtful reflection and working to continuously move it in a positive direction, or it will be one by default. Without intentionality, leaders may wake up one day and not like the culture that has developed.

To develop great talent and organizations, leaders must first look inward and be willing to do the hard work of self-examination. Understanding the role of relationships in business and then being intentional about how relationships are brought into play in every area of the work environment is key to harnessing their power. Leaders should be intentional about:

  • Developing a plan for relational development rather than simply “drifting.”
  • Surrounding themselves with people who will encourage, challenge, and sharpen them.
  • Practicing vulnerability by being authentic and transparent.
  • Facilitating healthy relationships by establishing a growth-focused community rather than merely seeking to deliver content.
  • Fostering collaboration over competition.
  • Valuing interpersonal relationships over technology in order to build a team-like bond.
  • Remembering that the fastest way to success is to ensure the success of others.
  • Believing the best in others and wanting the best for them before expecting the best from them.
  • Never losing sight of the fact that people work with them, not for them.
  • Providing strong coaching and developmental opportunities for their team members.

2. Humility. As much as humility is talked about in leadership circles, it’s still widely misunderstood. At its core, humility is the ability to see oneself honestly and without pretense. It’s being authentic. People who possess humility can genuinely celebrate the strengths of others without letting it threaten their own sense of self.

Humility breeds authenticity. And authenticity produces empathy. And when it comes to cultivating relationships and building trust, empathy is everything.

Companies that treat people like pawns never experience the full benefit of having teams comprised of mature and deeply bonded individuals who believe in one another and feel that others have their best interests at heart.

Leaders who demonstrate humility:

  • Offer constructive, developmental feedback in an atmosphere of grace so that significant growth can occur.
  • Recognize that remarkable people are worthy of a second chance.
  • Want the best for their people—whether that is with the organization or somewhere else where they are more fulfilled.
  • Make decisions by blending reason and emotion, without one dominating the other.
  • Seek and receive feedback well and use it to catalyze personal growth.
  • Promote unity.
  • Create safe environments that enable collaborative and productive work. 
  • Ask their teams how they can serve them better—they don’t guess or speculate.
  • Are not afraid to address individuals who do not provide value to the team or are causing issues.

3. Accountability. Great leaders are accountable for corporate success and the success of their team. Great leaders also hold their team members accountable. And when it comes to building dream teams, there are three elements that must be present for team members to bring their best effort to each endeavor: ownership, accountability, and responsibility.

If leaders want people to take ownership of the process and be responsible for the results, they must empower them with the authority to make the decisions necessary to make it happen. Giving responsibility without authority will lead to frustration. With authority comes accountability.

When everyone is held accountable, details are thoroughly covered and deadlines are met because actions are coordinated. Gaps are closed. Information flows freely and collaboration is encouraged to maximize the talent of the team. Accountability breeds awareness, and awareness creates synergy because everyone knows what others are doing and can leverage their strengths effectively.

Leaders who value accountability:

  • Are intent on preserving the safety and protecting the integrity of their team, even if it requires evasive action.
  • Never tax good team members with picking up the slack for someone else’s poor performance rather than holding the responsible individual accountable.
  • Proactively provide a plan for conflict resolution and commit to maintaining unity by working through conflict to resolution.
  • Seek to understand the perspective of the other person, not merely defending their own.
  • Provide ongoing feedback through coaching conversations, providing insight and aligning personal passions and organizational objectives.
  • Ask provocative questions that spark productive conversation.
  • Understand the growth process and assist their team members in assessing both where they are and how to advance toward maturity.
  • Build a highly functioning team by focusing on the individual growth of each team member.

4. Sustainability. Corporate culture is an expression of the health of relationships. Leaders must be wholeheartedly committed to providing the resources necessary to cultivate strong and lasting relationships among individuals and teams if they want their efforts to be sustainable. Ultimately, clarity and unity are the result of healthy relationships. Clarity and unity will lead to productivity. Likewise, the quality of relationships will determine customer loyalty.

Leaders who produce sustainable results:

  • Lead beyond self-interest. They are rooted in reality, emotionally centered, relationally rich, results-oriented, others-focused, and mission-minded.
  • Hire remarkable people and craft a remarkable culture.
  • Slow down the hiring process to ensure there is a values match between the organization and the candidate.
  • Invest in their people so heavily that they become equipped to go anywhere and be successful.
  • Invest deeply in their most valuable clients.
  • Leverage influence rather than force.
  • Share their relationships and knowledge with their team members.
  • Express appreciation to reinforce the fact that team members do not operate in isolation but are independent.

Relational integrity produces cohesiveness and collaboration. Depth and transparency of relationships contributes to the retention of top talent in the life of the organization. When healthy relationships are present, people find fulfillment in their work and productivity soars. When relationships are rich, people are simply happier. Business, to be effective, must be powered by healthy relationships. Leading with these four principles will take any organization to the next level.


Dr. Randy Ross is founder and CEO of Remarkable! and the author of “Relationomics: Business Powered by Relationships.”

Posted February 12, 2019 in Engaged Workforcein Talent Retention

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