7 steps to improve your leadership through relationships

A good leader must be able to build a relationship of trust with his team, consequently creating a high level of engagement, which has a significant and measurable impact on company performance. Engagement comes from the feeling of belonging, from the desire to make your own personal contribution, from the feeling of being able to grow professionally.

94% of the most loved and successful companies in the world are convinced that the efforts made to create engagement in the staff have the direct result of an indisputable competitive advantage.

 Conversations are important from the point of view of neuroscience

When we are stressed, hearing a friendly voice, which we trust, reduces the level of cortisol, the stress hormone, and increases oxytocin, the love hormone. Neuroscience studies show that an open, sincere, interaction-based conversation is fundamental to building trust in relationships.

All of us, unconsciously, are constantly looking for signs of trust in other people; we are programmed to become experts at picking up these signals. In conversations, we are perfectly able to hear when our interlocutor is moved by real interest in us: if so, we will be attracted to him, otherwise we will instinctively move away.
When communicating, a leader must:

  • avoid behaviors that can be perceived as threatening and dangerous, because otherwise the automatic response would be closure, defense and suspicion;
  • create conditions that not only can please the rational mind of people, but also arouse positive emotions in such a way that an opening reaction is triggered;
  • be honest, never pretend. People are too good at perceiving falsehood. He has to look inside, put aside his ego and try to relate to the other person in an authentic way.

The main factors that help build a relationship of mutual trust:

  • familiarity: intimacy, feeling of closeness to another person, desire to share ideas and opinions;
  • influence: the ascendancy we have over other individuals, the perception others have of us;
  • enhancement: people need to feel appreciated and respected;
  • responsibility: empowering collaborators, making them feel free to act and create independently;
  • transparency: it is important to always aim for maximum sincerity.

Prepare for conversations

When we are about to approach each of the 5 conversations, it is important to be aware of the intention (the real motivation that drives us to want to communicate with someone) and the beliefs we have (most of our behaviors, conscious and unconscious, depend on our beliefs , which can be empowering or limiting).
7 points to consider before starting this journey:

  • Will : do I really want to deepen and strengthen the relationship with my collaborators?
  • Legacy: desire to be remembered for humanity, trust, the beautiful atmosphere that I have been able to create at work?
  • Relationships : How important is the quality of relationships for me, both at work and outside?
  • Courage : am I willing to question my beliefs, listen without prejudice, get involved?
  • Guide : I really care about my employees, do I want to help them realize their full potential?
  • Curiosity : can I listen? Am I really curious about my collaborators’ dreams, aspirations, fears?
  • Mindfulness : am I able to pay attention to the present moment, focusing completely on the needs of the other person?

Base your conversation by establishing a relationship of trust

The goal of this type of conversation is to establish a relationship of trust with your team members, colleagues or stakeholders. The foundations are laid for the success of future interactions, aiming to get to know each other better, talking about general topics such as family, holidays, sports, pastimes. We try to create a sense of familiarity and share values ​​and interests of the people we work with.

You must be motivated by a genuine curiosity towards the other person, by an authentic desire to listen. It is not a conversation that is done once and for all, but will have its continuity over time, as you deepen your relationship.

Leaders often fear that creating too close relationships with collaborators could make them vulnerable or less authoritative; it is not like this: you will be appreciated for your humanity. Remember that the more you practice, the more natural it will be; the more self-centered, therefore driven by personal motivations, the less confidence you will inspire in your interlocutor.
What to do in practice:

  1. identify the person you want to have this conversation with, the reason and when you want it to happen. Reflect and take note of all the people with whom it would be worth deepening the relationship;
  2. set up the conversation and make an invitation. Write the name of the person and the benefits that you could have both (and also the company) from a stronger and sincere relationship;
  3. forward an invitation, asking for confirmation. Get ready to give your best in this meeting: mentally (do you really understand the reasons why this conversation can be useful?), Practically (have you reflected well and planned goals and questions?), Emotionally (this conversation is guided by genuine curiosity towards the your colleague or personal interests?);
  4. schedules the conversation, preparing a series of questions. You have to invite the other person to ask you anything that can help them understand you better and then let the conversation develop, also adding information that you have not been asked for. You will then invite your interlocutor to do the same and talk about himself. You want to understand what is important for him at work, what fascinates him, what are his strengths, the limits, if he trusts people in general, how he defines a good working day, what worries him;
  5. close the conversation by summarizing the points you have in common and the differences; ask your collaborator if the conversation was enjoyed and what benefits it had and then reciprocate, highlighting the usefulness of the meeting in terms of better understanding and building a closer relationship. Express your sincere gratitude for the availability and willingness to share ideas and values ​​with you; follow this conversation with a phone call or a meeting in person to reiterate thanks and benefits obtained.

Agree mutual expectations

This is a fundamental type of conversation to have with all collaborators with whom there is a close interdependence in order to get the best out of one’s work.

You start by explaining  why , your deep motivation, what makes you get out of bed in the morning and what guides you towards the results that are really important to you. You must be clear about the expectations you have towards your colleagues and ask them the same thing: what do they expect from you? How can you help and support each other with mutual benefits?

It’s an important conversation because in today’s world we are all interconnected; yet it rarely occurs in the workplace, due to lack of time and a method of conducting it, or because it is not considered fundamental, nor strictly linked to the business.

It is an opportunity for mature interaction between leaders and collaborators and can contribute to empowering people, who will have a push to work in the agreed direction together, with the moral and concrete support they need.

  1. clarify and define your motivations, your  why , in three phases:
  2. reflect and write down everything you like about your job, what you do with real passion;
  3. reflect and take note of which legacy you would like to leave, as you would like to be remembered by teams and colleagues;
  4. create an image of your work objectives for the current year and identify the passions that will lead you to achieve them;
  5. identify the person with whom you want to have the conversation, when it will take place and the reason (it must be someone with whom you feel you have a particular relationship of mutual dependence);
  6. set up the conversation and make an invitation. Prepare your best: mentally (is it clear to you your purpose and interdependence with this person?); practically (did you plan the elements of the conversation well?); emotionally (have you found an authentic and sincere way to express your motivation?);
  7. schedule the conversation. You must clearly explain what your goals are over a year, what is important to you and ask the other party the same; both of you must try to understand how you can support each other in achieving their respective goals. You can ask explicit questions, such as: “What can I help you with, how can I support you? How do you think you can help me? “;
  8. close the conversation by asking if it was useful. If there have been any benefits, clarify each other. You must be sure that you understand what mutual expectations are and how you can support yourself. Sincere thanks for your availability and openness. After the meeting, with a phone call or in person, thank you again and summarize the objectives and expectations of both. If there are specific actions you have decided to take, remember them.

Show genuine appreciation to the team

This conversation ensures that the people who work with us always feel valued and appreciated, who experience this emotion several times over the course of a year.

It allows you to understand the strengths of a team and the potential of a company, has the aim of focusing on what people are doing well, highlighting the excellence. Showing genuine interest is useful not only for job performance, but also for people’s emotional well-being.

When we see someone doing something positive, like solving a problem, helping a colleague, we seize the moment and congratulate ourselves immediately. People need to be told that they are contributing positively to the company, that they are making a difference: this motivates them to do better and better.

Let’s not forget that there is a physical effect in response to appreciation: the brain releases dopamine, which makes us feel good. With appreciation, I increase self-esteem and the feeling of growing, learning and progressing in my career. There is a greater sense of responsibility and desire to contribute better and better to everyone’s success. Usually these types of conversations are not made in companies, because it is considered impossible to talk only about what works without facing the critical issues.


  • identify the person with whom you wish to have this conversation and decide when;
  • prepare for the meeting, assuming that each of your collaborators comes to work with the utmost positivity and willingness to do their best, even in difficult circumstances; remember that it is an opportunity to say thank you and that it is okay to express your emotions;
  • schedule the conversation with some questions, such as: what’s going on really well for you at work? What have been your recent successes? Your biggest challenge? How did you feel? How do you feel now? How can you develop your talents even better?
  • Remember to conclude by summarizing the content of the conversation and highlighting its usefulness for both;
  • after the conversation, in person or on the phone, renew your thanks.

To counter hostile behaviors that may arise during the conversation

This type of conversation is necessary to deal with a colleague’s negative behavior, with respect for the people involved and with the intention of strengthening the relationship.

A leader must be able to recognize when a collaborator is holding a hostile attitude and face the matter courageously and openly. If this problem is not contrasted in the bud, it can create resentment, anger, internal conflicts.

This conversation focuses on behavior: it is not a question of devaluing the person, because positive intentions are respected and an attempt is made to understand what the causes of his words and actions are. The aim is to clarify and formulate a precise request for a change of conduct that both parties undertake to carry out.

  • identifies the person with whom to have the conversation and considers that in general it is better to deal with the matter immediately;
  • prepare the conversation and forward an invitation (better to do it in person, using the right words, chosen according to the situation);
  • plans the meeting, which must have as its objective: to listen to the colleague with the intention of supporting him, to clarify the feelings that that behavior has aroused, the causes that may have provoked him. Define the commitment of both to change attitude and conduct, specifying mutual needs and requests;
  • close the meeting trying to give new life to the relationship, emphasizing how important these types of conversations are for an open and sincere relationship.

The aspirations for the future of our team

The purpose of this conversation is to know the dreams and aspirations of your most important collaborators, keeping in mind that these people will be constantly contacted by recruiters and head hunters, with whom they will have the opportunity to confront and evaluate any career changes.

You have to make sure you know the aspirations of these people very well, know where they would like to professionally go in 3-5 years. You can use the  Future Focus Wheel , a wheel divided into ten segments, each of which represents an area that identifies the main needs to be met through work:

  1. purpose / meaning : to have a higher goal, to feel that you make a difference;
  2. autonomy / freedom : act independently, manage your business autonomously;
  3. competence / learning : continuously growing and improving;
  4. innovation / exploration : being creative, making discoveries, innovating;
  5. collaboration / inclusiveness : working in contact with other people;
  6. results / recognition : to be successful, to be recognized and rewarded for this;
  7. balance / well-being : need to have a satisfying life beyond work;
  8. career / promotion : professional growth prospects;
  9. economic recognition / security : achieve a certain level of financial security;
  10. status / power : to be recognized for the position reached.

It’s an important conversation because talking openly about everyone’s professional wishes allows you to maximize your company’s chances of having access to the skills and talents of your best staff for as long as possible. Leaders often fear to discover projects and aspirations that they will not be able to fulfill and therefore avoid this type of conversation.


  • identify the person you want to have this conversation with and when (make sure it is at least once a year);
  • prepare the conversation and forward an invitation. You will use the  Future Focus Wheel , based on the 10 areas already mentioned: your interlocutor will have to give a score from 1 to 10 in each area, depending on the level of satisfaction. Each area will have one mark that regards the current situation and one mark that regards the level it wishes to obtain in a set time. In this way, you can see at a glance which are the most critical areas in which it is necessary to intervene to improve the situation;
  • focuses the meeting on the most important areas that the wheel itself highlights;
  • follow the conversation by a meeting where you will confirm the points you have discussed, the new information and reflections and also the actions to be taken.





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