"A cardinal principle of Total Quality escapes too many managers: you cannot continuously improve interdependent systems and processes until you progressively perfect interdependent, interpersonal relationships."
--- Stephen Covey
When we hire a person to perform a task, we typically believe that it is the responsibility of that person to do the work and our responsibility is to pay them for the job. It's a wonderful system if the person we hired was a machine and we rewarded the machine for doing what it was supposed to do. But we all know that our team members are not machines and shouldn't be treated that way, but we still do it sometimes.
What we forget is that an employee is a person with feelings, cares, worries, joys, stress, problems, hurts, and dreams, just like anybody else. In many businesses, the business leader, managers, or supervisors have no idea what the employee is going through. They don't know where he lives, how many children he has or if he likes baseball. They don't ask if she is into movies or the beach or art. This detachment explains a lot of the high turnover found in some companies.
"Our business is about technology, yes. But it's also about operations and customer relationships."
--- Michael Dell
The best, most profitable companies are those that place a strong emphasis on building relationships with their customers. Most of those companies have found that in order to build great customer relationships, they must first build strong relationships with their employees. They know that in order for the employee to strengthen customer relations, they must first allow the employee to know what it feels like to have a strong relationship with others in the organization.
"The quality of your life is determined by the quality of your relationships. The quality of your business is no different."
--- Harvey Mackay
To begin fostering good relationships with your team members, take the time to find out more about them. Some companies already celebrate employees' birthdays, and that's a good thing, but it is not enough. Go deeper and create a survey to determine your employee's likes and dislikes, where they were born, what shows they binge watch, and do they prefer pizza over burgers. Finding out things like this is a good start.
Don't be afraid of violating any privacy laws when trying to learn more about a person. Although they are employees, treat them like you would someone you just met at a party. Get them to open up about themselves and find out what makes them tick. Tell a little about you as well. In short, be a friend.
"The result of long-term relationships is better and better quality, and lower and lower costs."
--- W. Edwards Deming
Then, as in other relationships, let them talk about themselves and share what is going on in their lives. Show empathy where needed and make mental notes about their likes and dislikes. Of course, remember their birthday, but also remember that their daughter is in the hospital and send a card or go visit. Or remember that they like apple fritters so grab one for them on the way in to work one day.
Building relationships with employees is allowed and is beneficial to both you and the team member. It is always great to make a new friend. Some business leaders are hesitant to try to build relationships with their employees because they think it would be challenging to separate the friend side from the boss-employee side. In my travels and speaking with many successful business leaders over the past 30 or so years, that is not the case. You can only legally hire adults and as adults, we all know where the line is. In fact, blurring that line is a good thing because that usually means the relationship is working and you both are doing your jobs very well.
"The relationships we have with people are extremely important to success on and off the job."
--- Zig Ziglar