Strengthen One Relationship

Published: January 9, 2019

Time is precious. The team’s highest priorities get attention and less important things get neglected. Unfortunately, the subjects of neglect are often people. When someone feels like a low priority, engagement suffers. These teammates come to work, do their job, go home, and collect their paychecks. Why would they go the extra mile? Yet, when we invest in people, they grow. Sleepwalkers become evangelists. Look at your team roster. Identify the teammate most likely to thrive if fed. Sponsor his or her development. Here’s how.

Take an interest in their life outside of the workplace. Rather than checking your phone as you’re waiting for a meeting to begin, ask your colleague about their kids, their weekend, or their vacation. Teammates are more than coworkers. Our lives overlap in the workplace but our beings are so much more than our work.

Seek to understand their perspective. Invite an open conversation about common challenges. Listen most carefully to the observations that aren’t visible from your position. Get behind the eyes of your teammate. Elevate and empower the new viewpoint.

Repair any unresolved misunderstandings. We all have issues that are easier to avoid than to address. Whether feelings were hurt with or without intention, own your contribution to the insult and make things right. An apology goes a long way when communicated with authenticity.

Discuss a growth goal. Every year that passes in a career path leads to greater clarity about aligning work with values and purpose. We hone our skills and build our networks so that we can have greater impact. In the spirit of continuous improvement, identify the next stage of your colleague’s growth and create a strategy to get there.

Collaborate on a common project. Accountability increases when teammates partner on an initiative. We rise or fall together. Joining forces creates a unique chemistry of talent that often results in innovation. A platform for future collaborations follows.

Put your name, reputation, and resources behind their professional development. Selecting a teammate as the recipient of your personal investment informs the world of your endorsement. The goal is not to receive credit for helping someone. In fact, it works best when done quietly. The purpose is to elevate a respected colleague with the strength that only your unique position enables.

Strengthen one relationship. Put someone under your wing and teach them to fly. More than mentorship, this fuels the succession of the team. Most likely, someone did this for you. The teammate who benefits from your investment will, in time, pass the same gift along.

Photo of Steve Ritter, the co-founder of The Center for Team Excellence

Steve Ritter

Steve Ritter is an internationally recognized expert on team dynamics whose clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, and many educational organizations. He is on the faculty of the Center for Professional Excellence at Elmhurst College where he earned the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Steve is the former Senior Vice President, Director of Human Resources at Leaders Bank, named the #1 Best Place to Work in Illinois in 2006 and winner of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award in 2010. Steve provides ongoing workplace culture consultation to many thriving companies including Kraft Foods, Advocate Health Care, Kellogg's, the Chicago White Sox, AthletiCo, and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.