Leadership Is About Relationships: Little Things Add Up To Big Things

EFFECTIVE LEADERSHIP is interacting with people every single day – whether working with them, managing them or influencing them – to make things happen.

Some leaders consider most of these interactions interruptions to be avoided. Rather they are chances to connect in positive ways that develop trust, strengthen communication and build employee and customer engagement. Positive relationships are built through micro-interactions – little things that add up to big things. Leadership is about relationships.

Here’s an example:

Lucille is the department head in accounting. While walking to her office she greets people along the way. Her comments are:

“Hey Joe, I hear we’ll get to see your project report later.” “Dave, how’s the new program working?” “Diane, great to see you back, I want to hear about your vacation.”

She addresses the person by name, asks a relevant question, shows a genuine interest and enjoys connecting with them. Total time investment in each interaction: Perhaps 30 seconds. Return on effort: Employee engagement, trust and commitment. Each interaction you have with others – boss, peers, staff, suppliers, the customer, etc. –  is an opportunity to build or damage your relationship with them. Lucille is a builder. Are You?

Douglas Conant, former president and CEO of the Campbell Soup Company, in his book TouchPoints: Creating Powerful Leadership Connections In the Smallest of Moments says, “every face-to-face conversation brings the opportunity to engage employee in their work and the company as well as promote your leadership:

Here are Three of His Rules

Rule #1. It’s what you think.
Not surprisingly, effective leaders strongly believe in the value of building relationships with others inside and out of their organization. Connecting with others is high on their priority list. How much effort are you making to connect with others?

Rule #2: It’s what you pay attention to.
Effective leaders make the time to get to know others, ask about their problems and acknowledge their ideas. Identifying shared interests, experiences and goals develops rapport and also builds long-term trust. Are you taking the time to really get to know your staff, co-workers, suppliers and customers?

Rule #3: It’s what you do.
Effective leaders build allies not enemies. They are approachable, have a knack to ‘tune in’ accurately to the needs of others and, most importantly, follow through. Do you build allies or enemies with those whom you need to inspire, influence, or do business with?

Smart Moves Tip:

For too long, people have thought becoming a good leader was about going business school and getting a MBA or reading the latest and greatest business books. Don’t get me wrong they are valuable ways to enhance your leadership.

What I’ve found in coaching hundreds of leaders is that effective leaders at all levels are highly effective in these hundreds of touchpoints every day. That’s where they have a chance to bring their leadership to life in personally relevant ways. Yes, leadership is a relationship business!

Marcia Zidlehttp://www.smartmovescoach.com
Marcia Zidle, The Smart Moves Coach, is a national known board certified coach and keynote leadership speaker who guides organizations that are planning, or in the midst of, ambitious growth and change. As a career strategist, she works with professionals, managers and executives who want to build • shape • brand • change • vitalize their careers. She’s been selected by LinkedIn’s ProFinder as one of the best coaches for 2016!Her clients range from private owned businesses to mid-market companies to professional service firms to NGO’s. With 25 years of management, business consulting and international experience, she brings an expertise in executive and team leadership; employee engagement and innovation; personal and organization change; career building and development; emotional and social intelligence. Your Future Starts Now With Marcia!


  1. I have a similar credo. One thing I’m always working on is making sure my inner thoughts are shared outside my mind and in the real world. In doing so, it fast tracks the journey that many feel they need to make. Articulation — especially of people’s emotions is a very powerful tool that helps simplify a lot of complex problems.

      • I find that emotion drives a lot of decisions and journeys. If you can frame the emotion as rational, many immediately come on board. People feel more comfortable with hearing/seeing something that makes sense rather than hearing someone talk about an emotion or feeling.

        I find identity politics really interesting, because it circumvents rationale and uses group dynamics and guilt to get people do something — even when what they’re doing is extremely uncomfortable. I think the slang for that is “cringe worthy”. I seeing people use social engineering at some clients. This is a problem because social engineering is incompatible with sustainable change management approaches.

  2. Marcia, good advice.

    The president of my company stopped me in the hallway to talk to me. I presumed I had screwed up since he never stopped employees in the hallway to just say hi or to chat. I asked, “What did I do?” He replied, “Why are you the only employee (we had over 200 employees) to get letters of recommendations from our clients?” I told him, “Whenever a client tells me I did a good job I ask them to send you a note to let you know that I did a good job.” He then said, “Why?” I replied, “I thought you would like to know when your employees did a good job.” He walked away.

    It wasn’t until later that he told me he never praises employees because they will then, “come to my office and ask for a raise, so you see.”

    Many good engineers become ineffective managers and ineffective managers don’t become effective executives.

    • Great story Bob. It reminds me of a manager I was coaching years ago who said about his employees, “why should I praise them for doing their job..that’s what they get paid to do.” Also, I’ve seen many good technical folks when promoted into a managerial position flounder. Most of them, not all, see after some coaching that their role has changed from doing to delegating, etc.

  3. Effective Leadership, is just one side of the positive side of leadership. A full examination of the definition of leadership, “Guiding Intent with Integrity”, shows that leadership has it’s dark side as well. The real choice in leadership is what type of environment do you want to live / work in? Then guide yourself and anyone else that will come along towards that goal.

  4. It is true. You will be made or broken to a large degree by those around you. Not just the ones above you, but your peers and underlings too. It doesn’t matter nearly as much about how much you know, but how you use what you know to help others. That help will come back in multiples over time.



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