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Want Better Relationships? Be Relatable!

April 08, 2022

by John Maxwell, 2019

I like people.

When I get out of bed in the morning, one of the first thoughts to go through my head is “Who will I help today?” I am motivated by the interactions that I have with others, and I find great joy in meeting and helping people day after day.

Is it because I’m some sort of saint? No, far from it.

Is it because I’m interested in some sort of quid pro quo? Not at all.

I wake up thinking about people because, as the poet John Andrew Holmes said, “It is well to remember that the entire universe, with one trifling exception, is composed of others.”

Last week, I offered five steps for connecting with others. This week, I want to look at the same issue from a different angle. That’s because, outside of your own growth, nothing places a cap on your leadership like ineffective relationships.

When you fail to develop healthy and productive relationships with your team, you fail to lead at your maximum potential.

Leadership requires people, and leading people well requires leaders to develop solid relationships. While there are challenges to developing good relationships with your team one of the biggest is often overlooked:

In trying to relate to others, many leaders simply forget to be relatable.

I’m 72 years old, but I still work hard to be relatable. I meet people in all sorts of circumstances from all sorts of backgrounds, and the common denominator in every situation is me. It’s up to me to connect with them and that begins with me making that connection easy.

How I do this varies, but at the root of those tactics is a simple set of ideas that make me relatable to others, and I believe they will help you as well.

Here are four key ideas for being relatable as a leader:

  1. Know Your Values—I’ve long said that my top five values are faith, family, legacy, integrity and growth. These five ideals form the basis for my beliefs and actions; they shape how I see the world, and how I want to impact the world with my life. When you know what you stand for, what you believe, and how you see the world, you’re in the best position to live authentically with your people because you know who you are.

  2. Know Your Value—let me go ahead and put your mind at rest: that’s not a typo. Knowing what you value is different from knowing your own value. Your value comes from within—it’s what you uniquely bring to the world through your existence, the combination of your strengths, your skills, and your ability to make others better. When you know your individual value you can live at ease with others because you’re better prepared to add value from your place of strength.

  3. Know the Value of Others—once you’ve settled your own value, your focus should shift to seeing the value in others. Every person you encounter has intrinsic value, which means they should be appreciated for who they are. Granted, some people are a little harder to appreciate than others, but the responsibility of a leader is to dig deep and see more than others do. I coach leaders to treat their people as 10s because that kind of belief creates an atmosphere for growth. If you’ll appreciate people and their impact on your life, you’ll discover that they relate to you a lot better.

  4. Know How to Add Value to Others—I can’t teach this principle enough: adding value to others is the essential task of a leader. You invite people into relationship when you as a leader regularly serve others, are quick with a kind word, and are first to encourage someone. When people can see that you genuinely like people, they will believe that you might genuinely like them, too.

Being relatable as a leader doesn’t mean being everyone’s best friend. It doesn’t mean saying or doing things that effectively bribe others into liking you.

Being relatable means being yourself; living an authentic, consistent life with the people you lead. If you want better relationships, you must be relatable.

It all begins with you—but it never ends there. Relating well with others creates a ripple effect that changes lives for the better.

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