Skill 05 – Nurture Relationships

The Complete List of Essential Leadership Habits for New Managers, Team Leaders, and Change Agents to Lead with Confidence

Great leaders nurture relationships.

Nurturing relationships is about developing meaningful connections.

In your professional life, this includes our clients, peers, and extended network.

And in your personal life, this includes our significant other, kids, extended family and friends.

The habits in this area include trust, empathy, compassion and influence.

Let’s start nurturing relationships …

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Habit 4 -​ Own Your Influence

It’s impossible to survive in the workplace without developing the skill of influence.

Author Dan Pink, shares the results of a workplace study in his book, “To Sell Is Human,” that discovered …

1) People are now spending about 40 percent of their time at work engaged in non-sales selling – persuading, influencing, and convincing others in ways that don’t involve anyone making a purchase. Across a range of professions, we are devoting roughly twenty-four minutes of every hour to moving others.

2) People consider this aspect of their work crucial to their professional success – even in excess of the considerable amount of time they devote to it.

You probably don’t view yourselves as a sales person, yet getting people to do things is a major part of your job.

This habit is about getting comfortable with the idea of owning our influence.

If we ignore this aspect of our work we can easily pick up the bad habits of bad bosses that rely on intimidation, office politics, back-stabbing, brown-nosing, gossiping, bullying, stealing credit, and other misuses of power to achieve our objectives.

When we own our influence we take responsibility for …

  1. Building awareness of how we are unconsciously being influenced.
  2. Our default reactive response when we feel threatened.
  3. Our desire to get the result we want at all costs.
  4. Respecting the person or people we are attempting to influence.
  5. And refining the influence techniques that we are going to employ to get what we want.

[source] To Sell Is Human by Dan Pink

Habit 17 -​ Build Trust

The currency of relationships is trust.

Think about a relationship that you have with someone that you mistrust. 

What are the qualities of this low trusting relationship? Here are a few that I’ve come up with …

  • Guarded and defensive
  • Hidden agendas
  • Keeping score
  • Holding back of information
  • Energy draining
  • Difficult to work with
  • Resistant to feedback
  • Take things personally

Now take a moment to think about a relationship with someone that you trust. Let’s explore the qualities of this high-trusting relationship …

  • Amazing uplifting conversations
  • Effortless communication
  • Complete transparency and openness
  • Lowering of shields
  • Bring my authentic self
  • Positive energy
  • Open to feedback
  • Inspiring to work with

Relationships that are high in trust easily outshine ones where trust is low.

To become a great leader, you need to develop the habits to build this elusive quality called trust.

Habit 18 -​ Be Trustworthy

In Build Trust, we explored the difference between relationships with people we trust and those we don’t.

What if we flipped this question around and asked it from the perspective of others?

What makes us trustworthy?

According to Stephen M. R. Covey, author of The Speed of Trust, your answer would fall into one of these two qualities …

“Trust is a function of two things: character and competence. Character includes your integrity, your motive, your intent with people. Competence includes your capabilities, your skills, your results, your track record. And both are vital.”

To build character, start with these habits …

  • Develop Self-awareness
  • Establish A Growth Mindset
  • Inside Out vs Outside In
  • Start With Purpose
  • Know Your Values
  • Leadership Presence

And to develop competence, apply these habits …

  • Walk The Path
  • Pursue Mastery
  • The Next Level
  • Overcome Urgency Addiction
  • Big Rocks First
  • Build Your Trusted System

[source] The Speed of Trust by Stephen M. R. Covey

Habit 19 -​ Relationships Take Work

The impact of trust goes well beyond ourselves. 

Inside The Speed of Trust, author Stephen M. R. Covey shares The 5 Waves of Trust …

Wave I – Self Trust

The first relationship that we all need to nurture is the one that we have with ourselves.

It’s challenging to have positive and healthy relationships with others if we don’t have a positive and healthy relationship with ourselves.

Once we’ve overcome our self-doubts, built up our self-confidence, and developed a positive self-image, external relationships come naturally.

The key principle underlying this wave is credibility.

Wave II – Relationship Trust

Meaningful and quality relationships don’t happen by accident.

It takes an intention on our part to nurture and develop relationships that matter.

This second wave is about the currency of trust and the “trust accounts” we have with others.

The key principle underlying this wave is consistent behaviour.

Wave III – Organizational Trust

How we treat every individual carries over and establishes trust with the many.

This wave is how we show up as leaders across all areas of our lives, including our families, friends, teams, peers, clients and extended network.

The key principle underlying this wave is alignment.

This wave is about establishing the habits, systems, and processes that shape culture.

Wave IV – Market Trust

This wave represents how trust extends beyond ourselves and our companies.

The key principle underlying this wave is reputation.

It’s an extension of trust to your personal brand and the brand of the organization within the marketplace.

Wave V – Societal Trust

The fifth wave is about creating value for others and society at large.

The key principle underlying this wave is contribution.

This wave is an extension of our purpose and how our work is making the world a better place.

[source] The Speed of Trust by Stephen M. R. Covey

Habit 20 -​ The Emotional Bank Account

I was first introduced to the emotional bank account when reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey.

We are all familiar with a financial bank account.

Making regular deposits into a savings account to build up a reserve from which we can make a withdrawal when we need to.

The emotional bank account is a metaphor for the amount of trust, the currency of relationships, that we’ve built up with others.

To make deposits into an Emotional Bank account with you, I can do this by listening, being respectful, sharing knowledge, and keeping my commitments.

As I continue to make deposits, your trust in me grows, and I can call on that trust many times if I need to.

I can even mess up and make a mistake, and when the trust balance is high, it will be easily forgiven.

When the trust reserve is high, communication is easy and effortless.

Stephen describes this as “the feeling of safeness you have with another human being.”

However, if I have the habit of being disrespectful, never listen to your input, fail to deliver on my commitments, and continue to make demands, the Emotional Bank Account will become overdrawn.

When the trust level is low, communication is guarded, difficult, defensive, filled with tension, and potentially hostile.

It’s like walking through a minefield, just waiting for something to blow up.

At work, it leads to micromanagement, bureaucracy, backstabbing, office politics, and an unhealthy work environment.

In families, it leads to strained relationships between parents and kids with lots of yelling, worrying, and suspicion.

And in marriages, it leads to hidden agendas, mistakes being remembered as weapons, and suppression of real issues, which will deteriorate into divorce.

The Emotional Bank Account applies to all of our relationships.

Pick a handful of both work and personal relationships and use the habits in this list to build up the Emotional Bank Account.

[source] The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

Habit 46 -​ Results and Impact

Traditional leadership training says that to be an effective leader, you need to shift your focus from activities and take responsibility for results.

Unfortunately, this is only half of the story.

An interesting study of 60,000 employees by James Zenger looked at the characteristics of great leaders.

For the leaders that applied the traditional view of “take responsibility for results,” were only seen as great 14% of the time.

The study also looked at the newer soft “people-focused” approach to leadership.

Unfortunately, this was even less effective as the study found that leaders who focused only on people were viewed as great only 12% of the time.

Now, this is where things get interesting.

Leaders who focused equally on both results AND people were seen as great 72% of the time.

It’s the balance of delivering results and impact on people that make a great leader great.

[source] Article by Travis Bradberry

Habit 51 -​ Shift Perspectives

The secret to nurturing relationships is to tune in and listen to WIIFM.

WIIFM is a radio single that everyone is broadcasting and stands for “What’s in it for me?”

This unconscious mantra drives almost all of our decisions.

There are two sides to this lesson …

First, you need to do the inner work and develop self-awareness of your own unconscious biases.

Begin by answering the question, “If someone was trying to build a trusting relationship with me, what are my inner motivations?”

You might be surprised at what you discover.

Second, you need to uncover the inner motivations of the people around you.

Shift your perspective to the other person and ask yourself, “What can I do to build trust with this person?”

The key lesson here is that we are all different.

What motivates you does not necessarily motivate others.

When you tune-in and listen to WIIFM, you’ve learned the secret to developing meaningful relationships.

Habit 60 -​ Lower Your Shields

When under stress and pressure, I tend to withdraw and keep an emotional distance from others.

Over the years, I’ve protected myself by building walls that keep others at arm’s length. As you can imagine, this can make building relationships very difficult.

To overcome the reactive behaviour, I’ve been working on lowering my shields.

I’m reminded of a story of when my first daughter was less than a year old.

She was crying away, and I was attempting to soothe her.

I had tried everything … changed her diaper, feed her a bottle, and was rocking her back and forth. Even her pacifier wouldn’t work.

I remember being annoyed, and my mind was elsewhere. I was thinking of all the stuff that I needed to do, and if I could just get this kid to settle down, I could get back to work.

And then an AMAZING thing happened.

I thought, what am I doing? Before I know it, she will be all grown up, and I will no longer have these moments.

So I let go of all of the other stuff that I had to do, lowered my shields, and turned my attention toward my daughter.

And she stopped crying.

It was magical. I still get goosebumps and teary-eyed when I think back to that moment.

All this tiny creature wanted was my attention.

While I may have been physically present, mentally, I was checked-out.

It wasn’t until I lowered my shields, gave her my undivided attention, did she react.

This was when I learned one of the most powerful lessons of leadership – The biggest gift that you can give someone is your undivided attention.

So when connecting with others, give them ALL of your attention.

This means putting away your phone.

Stop thinking about all the stuff on your todo list.

Be 100% present.

Turn your attention toward the other person.

And just listen.

Habit 64 -​ Develop A Positive Attitude

Nobody likes hanging with someone that has a negative attitude.

A negative attitude will stall your career, push people away, and suck the life out of any team.

On the flip side, a positive attitude is attractive and contagious.

I would never hire anyone with a negative attitude and a person with a great positive attitude will get the job every time.

According to Dan Pink, author of “To Sell Is Human,” there are three ways to build the habit of a positive attitude …

1) Positive Self-talk.

Stop using statements or affirmations and start asking questions. When preparing for any task, instead of telling yourself, “I can do this,” ask yourself, “Can I do this?”. Think like Bob The Builder, “Can I build it? Yes I can!” and you will boost your performance.

2) Positive Focus.

The ideal is a 3 to 1 ratio. That’s at least three positive thoughts for every negative one. And yes, it is possible to be too positive. But we’re talking ratios beyond 20 to 1, so you have a lot of room here. 

3) Positive Narrative.

If something doesn’t go your way, reframe the story by looking for the positive. This is similar to the mantra “There’s no such thing as failure, only feedback.”

I’ve been using these techniques for most of my career, and I can definitely say from experience that it is possible to build the habit of a positive attitude.

[source] To Sell Is Human by Dan Pink

Habit 70 -​ Pay Attention

People crave attention.

Think about a time someone gave you their undivided attention.

A time when someone was totally focused on you.

When you have a situation in mind, ask yourself, “How did that make me feel?”

My guess is that it made you feel pretty good.

We all crave being the centre of the universe.

When someone gives you their undivided attention, it satisfies our unconscious need to feel special and validated.

One of the greatest gifts that you can give another human being is to provide them with your full attention.

Here are some suggested steps that I’ve found useful when paying attention …

  1. Stop whatever you are doing (no multi-tasking).
  2. Put away your phone.
  3. Turn your full attention toward the other person.
  4. Become fulling present (take a few deep breaths to clear your head).
  5. Be curious.
  6. Listen without judgement.
  7. Show signs of active listening.
  8. Keep quiet (don’t try to finish their sentences or fill the silence).
  9. Don’t try to fix their problem or offer advice.
  10. Don’t say “I know exactly how you feel …” and hijack the conversation with your story.
  11. Ask open-ended questions to draw out more details.
  12. Ask clarifying questions to confirm your understanding.

Habit 76 -​ Active Listening

Active listening is a set of behaviours that you can apply to help put others at ease, build rapport, and is a fantastic way to establish trust.

Here are a few ways to demonstrate that you are listening …

  1. Smile.
  2. Turn toward them (ideally at an angle, which is less threatening).
  3. Make eye contact.
  4. Nod your head.
  5. Mirror their body language.
  6. Match their tone, pace, and energy levels.
  7. Sync with their breathing.
  8. Don’t invade their personal space.
  9. Use their first name.
  10. Use humour.
  11. Repeat what you heard using their words.
  12. Ask, “How can I help?” and be prepared to follow through.

Habit 80 -​ Put Away Your Phone

We’ve become consumed by our smartphones.

I still shake my head every time I see a group of people come together in a meeting or over a meal and everyone is staring into their smartphones.

Someone actually studied the impact of this. In his book “Are You Fully Charged?” author Tom Rath, shares …


From Are You Fully Charged? by Tom Rath

“In a 2014 study titled ‘The iPhone Effect’ shows how the mere presence of a smartphone can ruin a conversation. In an experiment with 200 participants, researchers found that simply placing a mobile communication device on the table or having participants hold it in their hands was a detriment to their conversations. Any time the phone was visible, the quality of the conversation was rated as less fulfilling when compared with conversations that took place in the absence of mobile devices. People reported having higher levels of empathetic concern when phones were not visible.”

If you want to build meaningful relationships, place your phone in airplane mode and put it out of sight.

[source] Are You Fully Charged? by Tom Rath

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