Start how you intend to continue

After returning from the break, however long or short it was for you, it’s amazing how your head space seems to be clearer and your outlook on the world seems so much better.

It’s after a return to work that you feel more positive about others and what they can do and this makes it a perfect time to work on improving relationships at work. With a more positive approach towards others and with a more open and relaxed mindset the action of considering your colleagues and the relationships you have with them will be so much easier.

Relationships with your team are not just nice to have. Let’s be realistic here. Success in your role is defined by the quality of your relationships with your team, your leadership peers and your colleagues. Too many of us think that these relationships just magically happen because we walk the same corridors or share the same tea or coffee station.

You know that with your friendships, they take time and they take effort and they require knowing each other. Relationships at work also need time and effort and they rely on having a better understanding of each other.

Success in your role is defined by the quality of your relationships with your team, your leadership peers and you’re your colleagues.

The beginning of a year is a good time to give some thought to the people you work with and which of these relationships need a lift. It is from the foundation of a relationship that trust is developed and leaders need to be developing trust across their teams. We know trust is needed to allow the psychological safety for people to feel comfortable to try new things, to be creative, to be innovative. If you have not created trust between you and them, they will not be in the safe space to come to you with their ideas, to admit to not knowing something and seek help, or be confident that when they need to tell you about your own behaviour or something that is not working well, they will fear criticism, reprimand or concerned that the relationship between the two of you will take a dive.

As the leader, start the year the way you intend to continue. With the realisation that relationships are key to your success as the leader of your team, investing time in those relationships is vital and needs to happen NOW.

Start the year the way you intend to continue.

Recently I was reading a Harvard Business Review article by Gary Pisano. The Hard Truth About Innovative Cultures. Thank you to Allan Shaw, Principal of The Knox School, Victoria, for sharing it on LinkedIn. (you can access the article here). It reinforced in my mind that the leader must demonstrate the behaviours that he or she wants to see in their team.

The article gave an account of a medical research group conducting research on novel minimally invasive surgical technology for cardiac teams and found that those teams who felt safe speaking up about problems mastered the new technology faster. They felt safe to ask questions, admit they didn’t understand something and seek help and felt comfortable to voice their concerns and provide critical feedback about the working of the technology. Pisano states that if people are afraid to criticise, openly challenge superior’s views, debate the ideas of others and raise counter-perspectives, innovation can be crushed.

This comes back to culture and while in your role you may not be able to change the culture across your entire organisation, you can change it with your team. It is up to you and how you live out the behaviours you want to see in others. It’s all about role modelling what you want for your team. Be the role model your team needs.

Two quotes resonating strongly here:

Treat people like they make a difference and they will.   Jim Goodnight

People will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.   Maya Angelou


Allan Shaw, Principal, The Knox School, is speaking about innovative cultures at The Leadership Exchange, Wed 6 March, Brighton, Victoria. To read more and to book go to


Janine Stratford, is a leadership coach, working with teachers and leaders in schools across Australia and New Zealand. A former teacher, (Chemistry and H&HD actually) and school leader, she is passionate about developing great leaders as role models for their schools and their students. You can find out more about Janine at