The following is adapted from “Relational Intelligence: The Five Essential Skills You Need to Build Life-Changing Relationships” by Dr. Adam C. Bandelli.
Stress affects all of us differently. Since the start of the COVID-19 global pandemic, employees have had to deal with various challenges in both their personal and professional lives. The lines between our responsibilities at work and those at home have become blurred. To adapt and adjust to these circumstances, employers have had to find new ways to keep their employees engaged and retain talent. Companies have also needed to find ways to provide emotional support to enhance employee mental health and well-being.
Research conducted by our team at Bandelli & Associates has found that employees are more vulnerable to the negative impact of stress inside and outside of the workplace if they have not built strong positive relationships at work. When leaders help make work interesting, social, and fun for their employees, stress levels decrease, employee engagement rises and organizations retain their talent. Positive workplace relationships provide a source of emotional support that is hard for anything else to replace. So how do leaders build great relationships with their employees? What skills do they practice to provide the emotional support needed to lead thriving organizations? Great leaders practice the five essential skills of relational intelligence.
Relational intelligence is the ability to successfully connect with people and build strong, long-lasting relationships. Relationally intelligent leaders practice five specific skills that enable them to create cultures where employees feel emotionally supported. Great leaders take time to establish rapport During the early stages of relationship development with people. They are intentional about spending time to understand others and learn about their employees at a deep level. They embrace individual differences by showing an acceptance and appreciation for people from different backgrounds, personalities, and experiences. They develop trust by honoring commitments made to their people, creating consistent processes for work to get completed, and being transparent and authentic in how they provide emotional support to their employees. And they cultivating influencer by having a genuine and sincere desire to support the development and growth of their people.
Attract Talent by Creating an Empathetic Company Culture
So, how can you use the five essential skills of relational intelligence to provide the emotional support your workers need? Here are five ways:
- Lay the foundation: Great relationally intelligent leaders know the importance of establishing rapport with their people. Rapport building takes place during the initial stages of relationship formation. This is where leaders need to be proactive in creating safe spaces for their employees to communicate their thoughts, emotions and feelings. Key areas to focus on include: making a good first impression on your people, drawing your employees into conversations by being open and transparent, and finding common ground with them. This serves as a first step to building a culture where employees feel emotionally supported.
- Check in on a regular basis: When it comes to understanding others, great relationally intelligent leaders go out of their way to learn about their employees on a deep level, and they do it on a consistent basis. They do simple things like kick-off one-on-one conversations simply by asking how their people are doing and feeling. They use their emotional intelligence to understand how to read emotions—in both themselves and others—so that employees feel valued and appreciated. They are strong active listeners who ask probing questions that go beyond surface level conversations. And they know how to show empathy towards their people.
- Give your people a pass: Great relationally intelligent leaders know the power of diversity and embracing individual differences. They create inclusive cultures where people feel that they can be themselves. Inclusion means making people feel accepted and that they have a voice regardless of race/ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, personality, and religious or spiritual beliefs. It also allows leaders to understand the challenges people may be facing and provides the flexibility to adjust workload and performance goals when needed. People sometimes need a pass like a mental health day or a three-day weekend to refresh, recharge, and rejuvenate.
- Remind your employees to practice self-care: When you’re developing trust With your employees, it is critical to be vulnerable and extend trust so that you can strengthen relationships over time. Even before the pandemic started, many employers creating mental health programs that encouraged self-care practices. This showed their commitment to providing emotional support for their people. Today, for many of us, working from home is the norm. People can put in 12 and 14-hour days on a regular basis, and this takes a toll on mental and emotional health and well-being. Encourage your people to take time for themselves each day. Create programs in your organization that provide opportunities to learn about things like mindfulness training or other types of self-care techniques and/or best practices.
- Provide your employees with ongoing support: Cultivating influence is about having a positive impact on the lives of your employees. To do this, you must provide ongoing support to your people when they need it. This can be simple things like weekly check-ins or bigger events like a team meeting to celebrate successes and milestones. Today’s employees want to feel that their work matters, and that it contributes to the greater good of your organization. When their personal lives become challenging, it’s important to provide them with the flexibility needed to make the appropriate adjustments. This can be as basic as letting them complete their work at night if they need to watch their children in the early morning hours.
Leaders will develop dynamic, life-changing relationships with their people when they practice the five skills of relational intelligence. To provide the emotional support needed to retain your workers, be intentional about the relationships you develop with them. Make sure that they know you care just as much about them as you do about their work efforts. If you do this, your employees will feel they have the support needed to be successful in their roles. It will also help you to drive employee engagement, increase your peoples’ job satisfaction, and retain the talent in your organization.