4 Simple Ways to Build Effective Relationships with Staff

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Do you connect easier with some of your direct reports than others?  Are you more comfortable communicating with your high performers than other team members?  Do you have employees that you sense don’t respect you?

These are all common experiences for supervisors and managers.  Great leaders have figured out how to make positive connections with all employees by building and maintaining trust.

At the most basic level, positive rapport with your team members simply feels better.  Beyond that, trusting relationships set the environment where people can perform at their highest level, enabling you to give employees more latitude in their work, and having to oversee them less.

Read on to learn four ways you can build strong relationships with each of your employees today, using the acronym VASE.

V – Value

The first secret is to frame the supervisor/employee link as a relationship rather than a business transaction in which they do work and you give them a paycheck.  When you, at a deep level, believe that you are two people working together towards a common goal, you will behave in ways that are in the best interest of the relationship and the value of the relationship increases to both parties.

An HR consultant is discussing a hiring project with her staff.

Some managers think they have this mindset but even their language indicates otherwise.  They might use a phrase such as, “I have to watch my team like a hawk, or they’ll slack off.”  You get more of what you look for, so I imagine this manager will continue to see more work avoidance than work.

Words come from thoughts, and those same thoughts drive behavior.  Therefore, managers who speak negatively of their team typically act towards that team in ways that demonstrate a lack of respect and trust.

When viewed as a mutually rewarding bond between two people, the employee – supervisor connection magically morphs into a more productive bond.

A – Attention

Two HR consultants are talking about an employee retention project.

It’s hard to build a relationship with someone if you don’t spend time with him/her.  Intentionally devote a disproportionately high amount of time with a person when they first join the team.

Let the onboarding period stretch beyond half of their first day.  Some companies have a full year of onboarding.  Yours doesn’t have to be that long but consider giving it at least 3 months.

Schedule regular blocks together both in the work setting and over breaks and lunches.  Of course, you’ll share information about yourself, the company, and the work.  Also be sure to ask lots of questions, listen deeply, and take notes so you learn and remember more about them.

Over time, the volume of attention can decrease because, through these regular interactions, you will have built trust and alignment.

S – Steady

One of the most challenging behaviors for any relationship is when one or both parties are unpredictable.  Typically, people don’t like to work for micro-managers.  However, most people would happily take a consistent micro-manager over a manager who vacillates between being completely hands-off sometimes and controlling the next.

Walking into work every day and not knowing what to expect is very destabilizing and unnerving.

Managers are human, too, so don’t worry about behaving perfectly.  Do approach things in an even-keeled manner and don’t overreact to bad news.

If your overall management style and mood are steady, you will be predictable and therefore people will trust you more.

E – Express

The last part of VASE is about clearly expressing yourself.  This includes what’s going well as well as what’s bothering you.

Communication is a keystone of a good relationship – at work or in our personal lives.  In includes effectively expressing ourselves both verbally, non-verbally, and in writing.

Take a few minutes right now and consider the following questions with one of your team members in mind.

• What do you appreciate about him/her?
• What would you like to see them do differently?
• What would work be like without the person?
• Have you told them these things?

As managers and supervisors, we’re balancing a lot of responsibilities.  Time is tight. Sometimes we don’t say what’s on our mind. If it’s something good, we feel like we’ve told the person once, so they know how we feel. If it’s something corrective, we hope it’ll go away on its own.

Nothing builds trust faster than open, kind conversations about where someone excels and where they could modify what they are doing to improve their career.

Coworkers in a huddle. They are HR consultants having a team building session.


Building and maintaining trusting, productive relationships is like holding a vase in your hands. If you drop it, it can break beyond repair or at the very least it will never be the same again.

By spending time thinking and behaving in ways that grow your relationships with your team members, their results will improve, which will be good for them, your organization, and will reflect positively on your ability to lead.

Think about each of your relationships with the people you support. What is one thing you can do today to improve or deepen each of them? Read our article 7 Easy Ways to Show Employees Some Love! for more ideas!

I’d love to read and learn from your reflections in a comment below.

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People Matters supports business owners and leaders in all areas of human resources management including the topic in this article: supervising people.

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