In the global marketplace, the competitive landscape implores us to be results-oriented and believes people ought to be replaced if they can't get with the program. In some ways, this is appropriate; in others, it's a time-wasting merry-go-round. This thought is only sometimes top-of-mind, but when this perspective persists within the culture of your brand, it's more costly than the expense of hiring a replacement.

Imagine beginning each workday not as a mundane routine, but as an exhilarating sprint in the 400-meter dash, where your computer is the starting block and your inbox, the starter’s pistol. The moment you dive into your work, you’re racing against time, sprinting through a relentless series of tasks, projects, and meetings, all aimed at surpassing benchmarks and hitting sales targets. It’s a high-octane world where efficiency reigns supreme. However, in this relentless pursuit of productivity, it’s all too easy for leaders to lose sight of an essential element: the human essence of the teams we lead.

In leadership roles, there is a consequential demand to stay laser-focused on goals, client acquisition, and leaner processes. It is normal to focus on the work we are doing or not doing and disregard the humans behind the output. Contrarily, the essence of the humanity of employees can not detach from our work. 

In the global marketplace, the competitive landscape implores us to be results-oriented and believes people ought to be replaced if they can’t get with the program. In some ways, this is appropriate; in others, it’s a time-wasting merry-go-round. This thought is only sometimes top-of-mind, but when this perspective persists within the culture of your brand, it’s more costly than the expense of hiring a replacement. 

Relational equity is often acceptable dialogue in networking contexts, as we deem it suitable to build relationships with people that can help us to get further and achieve more. Similarly, human capital is one of the greatest assets of any brand. People are the motor to the engine of our brands. Our employees are the people that can help us get further and achieve our goals. Investing in relational equity with our employees is not only wise but essential. Relational equity is to better outcomes for people as maintenance is to more mileage on vehicles. If you want to go the distance with people without consistent mishaps, take the time to invest in relational equity at work. 

There are numerous tried-and-true ways to turn interactions with employees into relational equity. Here are four best practices that work in any industry or circumstance.

Leverage opportunities to engage without making requests or demands.

If relational equity is the goal, every interaction you have with those you seek to build relationships with on your staff can’t center around a request or directive. Think of relational equity as a bank account and your requests as withdrawals. Any asks will pull the tab into a deficit if you’ve yet to make deposits. Simple gestures such as, “How was your holiday weekend?” or “What did you think about the presentation?” are opportunities to make small deposits in the relationship bank. As often as you commit to engaging without making a request, you increase the balance available to you in the future. 

While deposits are suitable measures to maintain equity in your relational “account,” investments create a more significant opportunity for greater yield. Some examples include providing opportunities for advancement or development, recognition of achievements and efforts, bonuses, and increased ownership of projects and initiatives.

Employ tactical empathy to make connections and gain trust.

Tactical empathy is the ability to hear the concerns of others and respond and provide a solution that seems favorable to the party with whom you’re engaging. For example, Chris Voss, Former FBI hostage negotiator and co-author of the bestseller Never Split the Difference, coined tactical empathy. He defines tactical empathy as the deliberate influencing of your negotiating counterpart’s emotions to build trust-based influence. If you consider what may be necessary for the employee you’re engaging with, like being valued, appreciated, or acknowledged, you have an increased chance of them caring about what may be a priority to you as a leader.  

If your organization cares about results, even a little, then the demand on your staff is likely not small. However, to keep your employees engaged, it’s helpful to employ tactical empathy to make connections that establish trust and catalyze and sustain employee engagement.

Remember the essential details. 

Whether or not Paul’s anniversary is today or next week matters little to the bottom line. Yet, that detail remembered by his boss, who has asked a lot of him, can make the difference in his choosing to get that report to you by EOD today or tomorrow. It can mean the difference between him looking for a new job because he feels like he works hard and no one notices him or his effort—simple examples like a “Happy Anniversary!” email and a gift card to dinner. Or, “Don’t worry about getting that to me today. We can review tomorrow so you can get out of here to celebrate your anniversary” are small but mighty gestures to fill up the relational equity account pretty quickly. Look for opportunities that present themselves in the course of a workday. Remember last Friday when you saw Paul stay late to get a project completed? Send an email saying, “I’ve noticed the long hours you put in to complete the ABC project. I appreciate your commitment and the value you bring to our team.”

When managing large teams, it’s easy to look at practices like these and say, “There’s no way I could do that, I have too many people on my team.” Although it is only sometimes practical to do this with everyone on a large team, doing it with a few helps shape your organization’s culture and sets a precedent for other leaders to follow. 

Establish a follow-up or check-in.

Following up with employees with whom you’ve invested is equivalent to checking your balance sheet. A periodic check-in will help you know what yield your assets have gained over time. Regular check-ins help you to maintain the level of relational equity and not lose ground. 

Relationships of any kind, in any context, are complicated because humans are complex. 

These principles are a safe base for building better team relationships. Implementing these four practices can help you build relational equity with employees, stakeholders, and peers.

If you’re still wondering how to build relationships with employees, stakeholders, and other strategic partners, we’re here to help.

 

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