Honest Relationships – the key to a successful team

For many leaders, it’s a daily reality: They are under a great deal of pressure. This is no coincidence, as job requirements and the complexity of their work have been rapidly increasing in the last few years. In addition, they must adapt to working conditions that have significantly changed in the hybrid context. They must develop solutions to problems that have never even existed before. Here, the traditional understanding of roles, where the leader is seen as a confident decision-maker who always has a solution at hand, no longer applies. Much rather, it’s essential to make use of the “know-how” of every member of the team, to create new ideas and solutions to pending problems. In theory, this seems obvious to most, but at the same time, the old understanding of roles in leadership is still very present – both the expectation within the minds of many leaders themselves and an expectation from employees who still wait for their boss to lead the way and tell them what to do.


What is needed right here are strong leaders who can provide guidance to their team without necessarily having all the answers themselves. Ones who are able to build a powerful team, who can combine strengths and “know-how” and find new paths together.


Many leaders feel that in this situation, they might lose their own strength and motivation. The result is often a weak leader and thus, a weak performance within the team.


Now, what can leaders do to break out of this negative spiral and find their energy and (leadership-) strength? The key lies within powerful self-management. It’s about strengthening one’s own inner resilience to be able to handle the pressure in a way that one does not succumb to it, but ideally becomes even stronger.


Trusting relationships strengthen your own leadership strength


One of the pillars of powerful self-management or resilience are trusting, honest relationships. To continually strengthen themselves, leaders need relationships with people who understand and can empathize with their situation. Where they can show themselves trustfully and honestly, expressing how they are feeling in the moment – with fears, doubts, and all the thoughts that occupy their minds. These are relationships with people, who offer them honest, well-intentioned feedback to strengthen and help them.

Usually, there are only a handful of people with whom you might experience such a quality in relationships. Who are these people in your life? It’s essential to be aware of this and keep those people close to you.


With the following reflective exercise, you can take a closer look at your personal network and the quality of these relationships. To do this, gather information on the following topics:

With the help of the diagram, relationships can be assessed more effectively.


· Who can I depend on, even on bad days?

· How high is the degree of trust/ How good is the quality of the relationship? (x-axis)

· What is this person’s understanding of my world?

· From which people do you get honest, well-intentioned feedback?


Trusting relationship as a foundation to successful teams


Even at team level, the phenomenon of pressure becomes evident. Many individuals are struggling on their own in the hybrid work context, lacking connection within the team. As a result, many employees lose strength and feel overwhelmed. Performance declines, and absenteeism increases, creating a negative spiral.

For teams to be able to harness the expertise of all members and develop new solutions together, mutual trust is an absolute prerequisite. The key to building this trust lies in fostering good relationships among team members. These relationships should provide an environment where everyone can be honest, free from fear of judgment and mistakes, and express their opinions. Only then is it possible to engage in constructive disagreements and continuous development, rather than withholding one's own opinions and avoiding confrontations.

What can leaders do to foster trustful relationships within the team?

Leaders play a key role in this regard. It is their responsibility to create a framework where everyone can engage in personal-level exchanges, getting to know and assess each other better. The stronger the relationships among team members, the greater the mutual trust. When everyone knows how others are doing and where they stand, it becomes easier to respond to or support their teammates' behaviors. This allows the team to work together successfully, like a well-functioning gear system. Particularly in hybrid collaboration, these moments often go unnoticed. Leaders can strengthen the relational aspect, for example, by incorporating relevant check-in questions during weekly meetings. Questions such as: "What is a talent of yours that few people know about?" "What was the most surprising thing you learned last week?" "Where do you particularly enjoy working?" Other possibilities include virtual coffee or lunch breaks, mood surveys, or planned in-person meetings with a focus on social interaction.

Leading by example and demonstrating the value and strength of trusting relationships is the most convincing way to put this into practice. Team members have a keen sense of how much their leader

values this type of relationship within the team, how much time they dedicate to personal conversations, how well they establish corresponding team rules, and how consistently they enforce them.

Trustful relationships provide a powerful foundation that makes substantive and professional work much easier. Therefore, it is highly rewarding to fully engage in this topic with energy and enthusiasm.


Author: © Julia Bruns

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