Flip Your Relationships

Here are some extra things to think about, and resources to download, to help you Flip Your Relationships.


Find Ways to Shrink your Out-Group and Grow your In-Group


Now you know what the LMX literature says: high-quality relationships with people in your in-group have better outcomes than low-quality relationships with those in your out-group. So, cultivate as many high-quality relationships as possible. Make your in-group bigger. It’s your responsibility as a boss to proactively find something that connects you with each person you lead and serve. Use the research of Nahrgang, Morgeson, and Ilies (2009) to your advantage. They observed that followers want to see their leaders as agreeable, trusting, and cooperative. The bosses everyone wants to work for are usually agreeable, trusting, and cooperative. So, to expand your in-group, be those things to the people you lead and serve.

How do you do this? It’s not about changing your personality, being somebody you are not, or saying “yes” to everyone. Rather, it’s about providing clear instructions and adequate resources to others. More importantly, offer your subordinates chances to take on additional roles, responsibilities, or opportunities that increase the scope and depth of their work. Be fair in offering these opportunities, providing enough resources and freedom to fulfill their work and allowing enough space for them to learn and grow. This helps build trust and respect. The quality of the relationship will go from low to high as trust builds.

You may have to work especially hard at getting members of your out-group into your in-group to have a high-quality relationship with them. Read this story of a first-time manager who had to talk to a “frenemy” just after her promotion to leadership.

Jane and I started out at the same time. We grew up in the company together. We both were very accomplished. Over the past couple of years, our friendship started to wane. The differences in our attitudes started to take its toll, and we stopped hanging out altogether. I’m sure there was jealousy as I became more known for my work than she did. Then I got promoted into leadership, and it probably made things worse. But, I also realized that I still needed her help, expertise, and work on some of the projects I inherited. So, I knew it was on me, not Jane, to reach out.

 I asked if we could have a meeting about my new role, and how we could work together. I meant it when I told her I truly valued his work. I respected her, her work, and her great contributions to our organization. And, for my new group to be successful, I needed her knowledge and time for certain things. She was ok with that. It wasn’t “kissing ass” at all, I truly recognize her value at work. We negotiated what she could and could not do going forward to help me and my new group, and it went better than I really expected. Now, we have a pretty good relationship. It’s nowhere near the good friendship we had at the very beginning, but luckily nowhere near the contentiousness we had in the recent past. It’s a good working relationship now.


Build and Enhance Relationships with your Team


The bosses everyone wants to work for flip their relationships from self-interest to team-focus. You can do this to putting Cindy McCauley’s suggests with DAC into place:

Direction. It is your responsibility to set a clear vision or purpose for your team.

  • Let the team know why the team is so important to the success of the organization.
  • Work out a game plan for how you and your team can best work together to achieve the goals and objectives of the department.
  • Be sure to clearly and concisely communicate goals, objectives, plans, or solutions.


You will know whether you have provided direction when everyone can clearly say that the goal they are trying to obtain is worthwhile. You’ve painted the picture so well, that everyone agrees what that end goal or success will look like. If people on your team have varying opinions on what success is or what the end goal is, and they feel like they are going in multiple directions, you don’t have direction.

Alignment. It is your responsibility to clearly say what each person’s role and responsibility is. And, you must help each person understand everyone else’s role and responsibility.

  • What are the tasks the team is supposed to do, and how does that fit in with the overall mission and vision?
  • You must clearly provide a model of performance, so each team member knows what below average, average, and above average performance is.


If people in your group start to feel isolated and don’t know what is happening, and have varying opinions about what excellent performance is, you don’t have alignment.

Commitment. It is your responsibility to check in with your people, both individually and as a collective.

  • Determine if people are giving their entire effort to do their job and accomplishing goals of the team.
  • Reward, recognize, and encourage the work of others, both publically and privately.


If people are more self-interested than team-focused, then you don’t have commitment.


Work with People across Different Generations


Motivation can’t be as simple as believing what you hear from popular news and pop psychology. Take Millennials for instance. So many people these days think Millennials (those born after 1980) are narcissistic work divas who want a participation trophy, and are socially conscious individuals who are driven to save the world. They are motivated so differently than older generations, like Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. A study by IBM clearly shows that when it comes down to it, Millennials have the same types of motivations as the older generations before them. Millennials, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers alike, all have similar career aspirations (they all desire financial security and seniority), all want recognition for their accomplishments, all want performance-based recognition, and will leave an organization for the same reasons – to get ahead and make money. In fact, research I conducted with Jennifer Deal and others found employee motivation is explained more by the managerial level a person is in, not by their generational cohort.

So, to maintain commitment of the individuals or teams you lead, you must go out of your way and understand what drives and motivates each person you lead and serve. That’s the key. It’s not a generational thing, it’s not a group thing, it’s not a “throw-money-at-the-issue” thing.


The bosses everyone wants to work for understand what motivates each of the people who report to them. You can too by following these steps:

  • Ask questions about what motivates each person at work.
  • Get to know each person you lead on an individual basis.
  • Observe what they like and don’t like.
  • Understand why they work and what they want to get out of work.

If you can do that, you’ll be able to foster, maintain, and enhance the commitment of the individuals and teams you lead and serve, no matter their age, job title, or experience.


Discover the One Word that may Strengthen your Ability to Flip Your Relationships


Say the Word “Together.” A lot.

Think about the teams you are in. Usually, every single person on the team, including you, is working as an individual, alone on a task. Rarely are you working side-by-side with other team members the whole time. Priyanka Carr and Greg Walton suggest you saying one word can help you flip your relationships: together.

In their research, Carr and Walton had two types of teams. In the first type of team, each person on the team heard the word “together” as in “you will be working together on a project” (even though in reality, each person worked on the task alone, like many of us do at work). The second type of team got the same directions, but never heard the word “together” in directions, not once. So the only difference, some teams heard the word, “together” in the instructions, other teams did not.

Interestingly, people working in teams that heard the word “together” actually worked longer, solved more problems correctly, remembered things better, felt less tired by the task, and found the work more interesting than teams who did not hear the word “together.” Hearing the word “together” makes us feel connected and makes us feel as if we are not alone. As a new leader, you would do well if you say the word “together” more frequently when communicating with your teams, even if the people in your teams are not literally working together side-by-side. This is especially important as more and more teams are cross-functional, cross-national, and so often these days, virtual.

A study by German researchers Frank Siebdrat, Martin Hoegl, and Holger Ernst in 2014 found that it wasn’t necessarily the actual distance separating team members that impacted collaboration and teamwork. Examining 161 software development teams located in 21 different countries, the actual distance that separated each of the team members had little to do with their perceptions of teamwork and collaboration (how team members rated the quality of communication, the amount of effort or mutual support given, the cohesion they felt amongst team members, the coordination of tasks, and ensuring that a balance in the contribution of work existed). Rather, it was how team members perceived the distance between team members. As a new leader, know that it doesn’t really matter what the actual miles, kilometers, or continents are that separate your team members. What Siebdrat and his colleagues suggest through their research – it’s really your effort in getting the team together, having frequent meetings, and whether team members are accessible and visible that can shape perceptions of collaboration and high-quality teamwork amongst members of your team or staff. They need to feel like they are working together. The bosses everyone wants to work for have people who feel as if they are working together, even across time zones and geographical boundaries.

Humans want to work “together” and feel a part of something. As a new leader, you have the ability to do that through your relationship-oriented leadership behaviors mentioned in this chapter.


Here are Some Downloadable Materials and Job Aids for You:


  • Want reminders on how to go from BFF to Boss?

Friend to Boss

  • Want a checklist of questions to ask to ensure Direction, Alignment, and Commitment?

DAC Questions

  • Want a checklist to see if you are on the right path so far?

Check Point