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You’ll find the 20% of leadership information that produces 80% of leadership results in this newsletter. This is well-researched leadership information that, when consistently implemented, will produce bottom-line results.

LEADER/FOLLOWER: Why Relationships Matter

Relationships between leaders and followers can be the key to increased productivity as long as those relationships are healthy and balanced. When followers report a strong relationship with their immediate leaders, they are more productive, expend more effort and become stronger ambassadors for the company.

Leaders should take the initiative to build a strong relationship immediately upon:

  • Assuming a leadership position
  • Getting a new direct report
  • Being groomed for succession, build relationships with the new team

Take the Goldilocks approach in relationship building:

  • Too much variation in how you treat people and the perception will be that the leader has “teacher’s pets”
  • Too little variation in how you treat people and the perception will be that “nothing I do matters”
  • Just right variation coupled with clear goals and clear explanation of why people are treated somewhat differently will result in the perception that the organization is fulfilling its psychological contract and therefore a greater willingness on the part of the employee to contribute a fair share.
Employees who perceive they are treated fairly are more productive and better corporate citizens

Case in Point

In her first supervisory position, Sandy was exceptionally zealous and enforced every standard to the nth degree. She role modeled this behavior and was harder on herself than everyone else. However it wasn’t long before the staff became rebellious. They argued with her on every point and dug their heels in. The more they pushed back, the more she dug in. Eventually, there were a slew of grievances. It was at the point of grievances that more senior management became aware of the issue.

As background to the story, Sandy was promoted from within the ranks and was now supervising her former peers. Sandy and her staff were all in their mid to late 20’s; this was their first full time, career oriented position.

Sandy’s case has happened in many organizations and so the remedies can apply in multiple situations. In this case, three approaches were implemented to resolve the issue:

  • Coaching Sandy to clarify the organization’s expectations of supervisors and discussing with Sandy how she felt she was doing. The coach and Sandy took a problems solving approach to how Sandy could supervisor differently to both keep the standards and engage her direct reports
  • Sandy requested a facilitated meeting between herself and her direct reports to both maintain high quality and how and when she could be more flexible in accommodating individual needs.
  • She and the team identified which standards were absolute, such as safety and manner of contact with the public and those which contained some flexibility such as grooming.

Sandy acknowledged that her relationship with her former peers changed. She also acknowledged that having been friends with people made it difficult for her personally. She was afraid to be seen as playing favorites, so she felt she had to be hard on everybody.

The team shared that they respected her position and would not ask her for personal favors—her rigid enforcement was unnecessary and onerous. Follow up meetings were scheduled, initially with a facilitator. However as Sandy’s supervisory skills strengthened, she took the facilitation role.

The outcome of the interventions was that all grievances stopped and Sandy became a fine supervisor.

Many organizations that promote from within have “Sandys.” They are well meaning people who have simply not been taught how to be a supervisor. We owe them coaching and training to be effective in the position and to keep productivity among the staff.

Join the dialogue on leadership

Expanded information, case studies, business applications and missed opportunities from the real world that you can use to further leadership development in your organization, is in our quarterly journal Leaders’ Work. For a sample issue, click here