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Like the pieces on a chess board, each person you lead is a little different; and if you want to help them excel, you must master the art of relationships.

Unfortunately, at a time when relationship skills are in high demand, the supply of leaders with this expertise is at an all-time low.

Technology is one of the reasons our people skills are becoming weaker. We live in a world where we can email, text and tweet messages around the world, but our ability to create meaningful one-on-one relationships is declining. Using technology to communicate with someone is efficient; but if we rely too much on our digital devices, our relationship skills begin to atrophy.

Successful leaders put relationships before results and they make developing their people a priority. An individual could be extremely intelligent, technically proficient and have a powerful passion to succeed, and still fail or flounder as a leader if they're unable to make meaningful connections with individuals that have different backgrounds, values and goals.

Putting relationships before results does not mean you're trying to get everyone to like you or that you have to lower your standards. In fact, in order to improve the well-being and performance of each person on your team, you have to raise your standards and stop tolerating performance or behavior that is less than someone is capable of doing.

Think back to the leaders, coaches and teachers in your life who brought out the best in you. I'm sure you knew they'd never tolerate anything less than your best.

Too often leaders fail to take a positive approach to holding people accountable for doing what needs to be done.

Some leaders force individuals to do things but, over time, that approach becomes a major source of unhealthy stress, depression and burnout. Others tolerate what they know a teammate shouldn't be doing because they don't want to cause problems or they may be uncomfortable bringing up a sensitive subject. Unfortunately, what we tolerate increases. Soon our relationship becomes damaged and we begin to believe the other person is not capable of getting the task done. We wind up doing the work ourselves or recruiting someone else to finish the project, and then the well-being of each person suffers.

Positive leaders treat all people with dignity and respect, and they don't tolerate someone doing less than their best.

Is there someone you lead or love who needs to hear you say...I believe in you, I care about you and I know you can do better. If there is, don't wait till it's too late. Tell them today.


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