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Building Interpersonal Relationships: Engagement Series

As we look at developing lasting engagement in our teams, the relationships’ health and impact on how they work together daily must be considered. With intention, we, as leaders, have tremendous influence and impact on whether they function together as a singular, powerful group or operate in harmful silos that risk dysfunction and chaos.

We must dig in and look at how each team member and workgroup conducts themselves individually and work together. Developing the relationships within a strong, interdependent culture takes focus within your larger leadership rhythm. Time must be dedicated to it within your regular cadence and scheduled as a priority. As you look at what you do and when you do it, think about how you are creating interdependent relationships within the expectations and priorities laid out for the team. You affect them each time you communicate, so do so with intent.

Teams typically operate within one of three environments:

  • Dependent. This is where a team or individual relies upon another person or team. This is often a natural point when they are new to the organization or new to a specific task or project. Still, if left in this stage long-term, their dependency can be a drag on the supporting person or team and can cause damage to the overall culture.

  • Independent. This is where a team or individual functions on their own without the help of others. This is a significant step in the growth journey and should be celebrated so that they can deliver their independent results. Still, there are big limits here as they are only drawing on their own individual talents, creativity, and skills. You can do much better.

  • Interdependent. This is where a team or individual functions in support of the larger team and receives support from them as well. This is a massive improvement over the Independent stage as knowledge, empathy, collaboration, guidance, and recognition flow naturally and fluidly throughout the overall team.

Seek ways to develop the types of relationships that support, challenge, and recognize each other. There are many ways to do this, and you may want to start small if your team is in disarray, siloed, or haven’t been exposed to each other often.

Here are some tips that can help pull people closer together:

  • Close Knowledge Gaps. Build a cross-training curriculum to increase exposure to what each workgroup does every week. This doesn’t have to be complicated or extensive, but rather, a simple experience where they shadow each other, with formal but light learning elements that include a high level of information to learn the ins and outs of their jobs.

  • Close Importance Gaps. Build in importance by aligning your organizational purpose and objectives with what each workgroup does to contribute to them. They should see how every role and team is essential in driving toward your goals.

  • Close Action Gaps. Assign expectations and set measurable metrics for both teams and individuals for this effort. Celebrate those who achieve a high level of engagement and build lasting relationships that impact the business.

Operating in silos is extremely limiting for any organization, and as you scale in size, those silos get larger, and their impact gets more pronounced. Start simply. You don’t need to take on everything at once. By testing out various methods to see what works for your organization, you can see what works and what doesn’t. Then, you can build those impactful strategies into your leadership rhythm and your organization’s processes. Using the Gapology structure helps keep everything in alignment to build interdependence that dramatically improves overall engagement.


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