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The strength of the relationship between a leader and the members of their team directly impacts team effectiveness and performance. Put simply, a team will give more effort to a leader they trust, respect and like.
If we were to plot these relationships on a scale of strength, we would start, at one end, with ‘friends’ and finish at the other end with ‘dislike’ (or perhaps even enemies?). Although a sliding scale, most people will fall somewhere within the following four broad categories (and for a festive analogy, we’ve added to the end of each a description of the type of Secret Santa gift a leader with that relationship might expect):
Friends – The team member and leader have a friendship (that may or may not precede their time working together). They choose to socialise outside of working hours and have a genuine liking for one another.
Secret Santa gift – The leader can expect to receive a gift they actually like. Time and effort will have been put into thinking about what to buy. The gift will probably relate to a specific hobby/interest of the leader, or to a shared joke.
Respect/Good working relationship – Both parties respect and value the other’s opinions, contributions and work ethic. They get along well and may have a laugh at work, but choose not to see each other socially.
Secret Santa gift – Again time and effort will have been put into finding a gift that the leader would appreciate. Less likely to be a comedy gift, more likely a good bottle of red.
Indifference – Here the team member has no strong feelings either way towards their leader, they neither like, nor dislike them – they are simply the leader. They willingly accept the position that the leader has and are more than happy to tow the line in the pursuit of getting the job done.
Secret Santa gift – Much less effort will have been applied to finding a gift the leader might genuinely want, but the team member will want to provide a decent, good quality gift and will probably err safely towards buying something they them selves would like to receive.
Actively Dislike – This can range from finding your leader irritating right through to real hatred (although I hesitate to use this word, since my mother always told me that “hate is a very strong word”). The team member has no respect for their leader, they disagree with much/all of what they have to say and may even openly voice their dislike to others.
Secret Santa gift – OK, this will very much depend on the degree of dislike, but can range from, literally ‘the first thing they saw’ (crap socks, generic gift set etc), right through to gifts that the giver either knows is something their leader would never want, or that actually sends a message about how they feel about the leader, for example; pair of socks saying “World’s Worst Boss”.
Whilst I’ve added the Secret Santa element to this post for a bit of amusement, it provides us with an excellent analogy for how the relationship between a leader and their team directly impacts the level of effort applied and therefore, team effectiveness. In the first two categories, the team member applies significant effort in pursuit of an effective outcome (in this case, a gift the leader would be pleased to receive). They want to make the leader happy and to do a great job of the task they’ve been given. Conversely, in the latter two categories, the team member is not engaged in the task or, if they are, it’s in a destructive way. They have no particular desire to do a good job, merely get the task completed.
Unfortunately, many leaders fail to make the link between how the team perceive them and team effectiveness, making the mistake of either not caring how they’re viewed by their team – “after all, we’re all just here to do a job, it doesn’t matter whether we like each other or not, as long as the job gets done” – or remaining blissfully unaware of how they are viewed by others. The problem with both of these positions is that they fail to take into account the fact that a team will ALWAYS be more effective when they have a leader in whom they trust and respect.
So whether you receive gifts from your team or not this Christmas, take the opportunity to think about the kind of leader you are and, importantly, how you are perceived by others.
If you’d like to develop the leader/team relationship, take a look at our solutions:
For further reading on self-awareness, click here to view our previous blog posts on the topic.