Human Connection Leads to High Performing Teams

People want to connect with other people. It’s a basic human need. This includes the workplace. High performing teams are connected to their leader, as well as their peers. The leader is ultimately responsible for creating this environment of inclusion and healthy relationships. A high performing team is rare if the leader doesn’t engage with her people.

The first and most foundational step is to talk to your people. I understand that days are busy, but think of this time is an investment into a high performing team. Some leaders may engage in conversations about weekend festivities, the football game, or the weather. This is nice, but the topic isn’t deep enough to make a human connection. You have to go much deeper. Discussions about their work, their contributions to the organization, andtheir goals are the ones that will make solid connections. THESE are the topics that show people that you care, that you have a vested interest in them, and that you’re committed to their success. When these discussions are present, they’ll give you permission to lead them. They’ll also give you their best work.

How do you do this? It requires daily interactions with your people. Even if you can’t meet with each person each day, which is the ideal, you can certainly begin by walking around and initiating conversations with small groups of people. Be present with positive, engaging, and inviting energy. Be approachable. People will hide their heads if you walk around stressed, rushed, insincere, or angry. Once you engage the conversation, an easy place to begin is to listen for the extremes: people who are struggling with a problem or people who are excited about an accomplishment. If you have limited time, these are the ones you want to zoom in on first. Let’s start with the problem. Begin by asking them to share. “What’s going on?” or “Tell me about this problem you’re having.” Keep it open and non-judgmental. This next step is key. Validate the struggle. Validate it by asking a question that shows them that you understand them. For example, “Do you deal with this problem every day? How often does this happen?” It implies that you’veheard them and can relate. Another option is to make a statement that validates their struggle like, “Wow. This sounds like a real problem.” Your role as a leader is not to jump in and solve the problem for them. Your role is to ask questions to draw out solutions. If there is any opportunity for them to be a part of the solution, you want to determine that first. You can explore that by asking questions like, “What do you think we can do about this?” and “How would you approach this on your own?” followed by “What help would you need from me?” You’ll be amazed at the solutions you hear. You may be wondering why they haven’t taken action on their own. Put yourself in their position. Perhaps, a previous supervisor restricted empowering behavior. If so, the people have essentially been trained to think they don’t have the authority or permission to take action. Fortunately, it’s now your responsibility and privilege to inspire and change these beliefs, give them permission, and encourage empowering action. Over time, they’ll learn this and appreciate your leadership style.

Now, let’s talk about accomplishments. You’ll want to acknowledge and celebrate with your people. Ask them to tell you about what they did. Be present and really listen. Show your enthusiasm and excitement. Let them feel your energy. Your energy will become their energy. They will infuse this energy into their work the rest of the day. They’ll even pass it on to the rest of the team. Each day you follow this process, mentally track your interactions with people. Be sure to connect with everyone. If you haven’t talked to someone in a day or two, initiate a conversation. Ask them what’s going well. Ask them whether they’re experiencing any barriers that you can help them remove. You may be surprised what they reveal when you ask. Just because they don’t speak up, doesn’t mean they don’t have anything to share. If a particular person on your team has a lot of problems and all your time is spent with them, the rest of your team will feel it, and possibly resent it. Spread out and be sure to have conversations with everyone. People need to feel included.

What do these interactions do for you? The first benefit is connection and mutual respect with your people. You also get to learn about their strengths, experience, problem-solving skills, and talents, as well as the problems embedded in the process.You’ll begin to notice patterns of problems that bubble up regularly, giving you insight into improvement opportunities and long-term strategies. As a leader, this information is a gift. View it as such. These interactions also open the door to deeper conversations about their goals and new opportunities, which require trust. Build this trust gradually, by interacting every single day. I think we can all relate to the experience of a poor leader who has asked us about our goals, during our annual performance appraisal, right after they’ve unfairly scored us lower than we expected, just pointed out all our weaknesses, and made us feel inadequate, when they’ve barely spent any time with us all year. We have no reason to trust them. Don’t be that leader. Your people needand deserve to experience challenges with you, as well as celebrations, throughout the year. They want consistency and predictability in your leadership. Over time, you’ll develop relationships and expectations with your people. When they experience problems they can solve on their own, they will. They’ll learn when it’s time to ask you for help. When everyone’s included, they won’t compete with each other, because they’ll feel abundance. This is the foundation that supports raising the bar, stretching your team, and inspiring them to step into their own greatness. It begins with simple, human connection.

We’ve all read or learned about best leadership practices. You may be thinking that this information is nothing new. It’s common sense. But as my mentor, Brendon Burchard would say, “Common sense isn’t always common practice.” When was the last time you connected with each of your peopleon a meaningful level? When did you help them solve a problem or celebrate a win? What intentional practices will you begin Monday morning?

By Lisa Scolnick at




As a Certified High Performance Coach, she also works with people to help them realize their full potential by mastering their own clarity, energy, courage, productivity and influence. She coaches them to become High Performing individuals and teams working within those new processes and systems.