All Articles Leadership Management From taskmaster to leader: Learn the 4 ways to drive results through relationships

From taskmaster to leader: Learn the 4 ways to drive results through relationships

Go beyond the transactional and build real relationships with your team.

5 min read




It’s easy for leaders to become a little too focused on the task at hand. They’re rushing from meeting to meeting, solving problems and reporting on deliverables, trying to be efficient and make sure everyone stays on task.

Sometimes, in that strive towards efficiency, the human connection with the team can be lost.

Does it matter? If responsibilities are getting done and everyone knows what they’re supposed to do, what’s the difference? If the only interactions you have with employees is to assign tasks or get status updates, you may be missing out opportunities to build positive work relationships and take your team to the next level. If you want to build relationships instead of just have interactions, read on about how taking just a little time can be the key to getting ahead.

1. Enhance trust

The foundation of a solid relationship is trust. You to get the job done, and they trust you to help them succeed by removing barriers, advocating for the team and showcasing the work they do. Trust, however, does not just happen overnight; it is built over time, with a series of interactions where both parties demonstrate their intentions and good faith.

Action step: Carve out a 30-minute window from your schedule to spend time, one-on-one, with each of your direct reports. Be sure they have plenty of opportunity to open up and give you feedback about what kind of support, discussion or time they need from you. Be transparent and authentic.

2. Build mutual respect

Even if you will never be close office friends or spend a lot of time discussing personal matters with someone, it’s important to develop a strong sense of mutual respect. Not only will it matter when reputation is at stake, it will go a long way when someone is deciding how motivated they are to follow your lead, back your idea or defend your decisions.

Action step: Make it a habit to recognize team and individual achievements and milestones. Spend time with the team for the sole purpose of celebrating successes. It’s important to demonstrate that you recognize and respect their contributions. Be sure it is a regular item on your agenda.

3. Foster engagement

Not everyone needs to know all the reasons behind a task, a decision or a strategy, but most of us need at least a basic understanding in order to feel connected to the larger goals. We all need to feel that there is a purpose to our work and meaning in the things we create. Your team needs more than just the task list – they need to know your strategy and your objectives. It’s up to you to know each member well enough to find the balance of information required to help them feel purposeful and connected without making them feel pressured, bored or overwhelmed.

Action step: Take the time to put everything in context and explain your decisions. When you are problem solving as a team, make sure that everyone understands the whys of the solutions you choose. Outline why a decision is fair, and how it fits in the big picture. Make sure your team knows the big picture! 

4. Increase influence

The more engaged the team and the better they understand the direction, the better they can speak to the larger purpose and meaning of your work. You won’t always be involved in every interaction where the team is called upon to advocate for your goals and objectives – teams that feel a connection to the work and the purpose are going to speak far more passionately and with far more influence.

Action step: Foster a sense of ownership and connection to the work. To do this, teams must be involved in the decisions and the solutions, and truly feel they have had a voice and a hand in completing the goals at hand. Increase that desire to influence by bringing employees in at every stage of the work.

What actions will you take to connect with your team? Do you have habits you need to break? Make a plan and write down the steps you will take this week to engage with your team and move away from treating each interaction like a simple transaction.

It takes a little extra time to shed the taskmaster persona, but the rewards of a dynamic, engaged team are more than worth the extra minutes spent building mutual trust and respect for a more genuine, dynamic relationship.


Joel Garfinkle is an executive leadership coach who was recently asked to coach a vice president who had a reputation of being a taskmaster. Garfinkle work with him to identify the behaviors and the preferred outcomes. With Garfinkle’s coaching, the vice president was able foster relationships in place of transactions. Garfinkle has written seven books, including “Executive Presence: Sixteen Characteristics to Help You Be a Leader with Executive Presence.” More than 10,000 people subscribe to his Fulfillment@Work newsletter. If you sign up, you’ll receive the free e-book “41 Proven Strategies to Get Promoted Now!”

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