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Frontline Fundamentals: Valuing Your Team and Developing Relationships

Developing relationships is a huge topic, especially in today’s world of generational differences, cultural sensitivities, political divisions, and a general us-versus-them attitude between organizations, leadership, and frontline workers. It starts with how you onboard new employees and encompasses everything from conflict resolution to codes of conduct. While relationships often are overlooked or ignored, they may be the most influencing factor in the success of your team.

Let me tell you about an experience I had that infuriated me. It’s probably the angriest I have been in my professional life. A trainer was about to go into a crane certification preparation course. Right before he walked into the room, he looked at me and said, “None of these guys are going to pass. They’re all too stupid to do the math.” I’ll spare you the details, but I will tell you that quite a few of them passed. What’s important is how this exemplifies the value – or lack thereof – that leaders place on their teams.

It can be common for frontline leaders in our industry to shy away from any mention of words like “emotions,” “relationships” or “teammates,” but those are three of the most important words you should be embracing. Here are some other critical points about valuing your team and developing relationships:

  • If your success as a leader is based on the performance of your team, they can make you look really good or really bad, and without them, you are not a leader. Value your team.
  • You may or may not have a choice about who is on your team and whether or not you have relationships with them. You absolutely have a choice about what kinds of relationships you have.
  • Efficacy refers to the ability to produce a desired result or level of performance. If you believe in the efficacy of yourself, your team and each individual on the team, you’re not guaranteed success. If you do not believe in your team’s efficacy, failure is almost certainly guaranteed.
  • A relationship does not equal you and the other person liking each other. That helps but isn’t required. What is required is that you value people, maintain mutual respect, trust each other and ensure each team member feels appreciated. How you treat people matters.
  • Your leadership should only be about you if you are looking for someone to blame. Apply this rule, especially if your team has failed – the team wins and the leader loses. Also, adapt to each member of the team in your communications and other interactions based on what they need, want, deserve and have earned.

Two Quick Quizzes
Here is a quick and hopefully easy quiz. Do you know the first and last name – not the nickname – of everyone on your team, their spouse’s name, their kids’ names and ages, one interesting fact about them and one of their hobbies? It’s pretty amazing how your perspective changes when you shift from seeing someone as a privileged and entitled 23-year-old brat with no skills to seeing that person as a 23-year-old father of three who is coaching his 5-year-old daughter’s tee-ball team. As your mindset starts to shift, it’s downright magical to realize how much more you begin to care about that person. You want him to go home safely and coach the tee-ball game. You want him to succeed and provide for his family. You care more about him. And, as with any of the “C’s,” when caring increases, so do competence, commitment, courage and credibility.

Here’s another quiz that’s a little bit more difficult. What motivates each member of your team? Who is task-oriented and who is more people-focused? Who likes to be very direct in conversations? Which team members are concerned with accuracy? Who is focused on long-term visions, and who is focused on short-term goals? It’s difficult to adapt to the preferences of others if you don’t know their preferences.

Developing effective relationships with your team takes time and effort, but that time and effort are more than worth it. Get to know each member of your team and lead them the way they prefer to be led.

Everyone is equal, yet no two people are the same. Apply that in your leadership. I’ll let John Maxwell close with this quote: “People rise and fall to meet your level of expectations for them. If you express skepticism and doubt in others, they will return your lack of confidence with mediocrity. But if you believe in them and expect them to do well, they will go the extra mile trying to do their best.” Remember, the types of relationships you have and the outcomes you get are your choice.

About the Author: David McPeak, CUSP, CET, CHST, CSP, CSSM, is the director of professional development for Utility Business Media’s Incident Prevention Institute ( His experience includes operations management, safety and training roles. McPeak holds multiple safety and training certifications and has received numerous awards. He also has served as chairman of Task Team One of the OSHA ET&D Partnership, as a member of Incident Prevention’s editorial advisory board and as a member of the North Carolina Apprenticeship Council. Reach him at

About Frontline: The Frontline program provides interactive, engaging classroom training that empowers employees to become better utility safety leaders. Subject matter experts facilitate the learning process and cover three areas – safety leadership, incident prevention and human performance – critical to safety success. Visit for more information.


Webinar on Valuing Your Team and Developing Relationships
July 17 at 3 p.m. Eastern
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Frontline Fundamentals


About the Author: David McPeak, CUSP, CIT, CHST, CSP, CSSM, is the Director of Education for Utility Business Media’s Incident Prevention Institute ( and the author of "Frontline Leadership – The Hurdle" and "Frontline Incident Prevention – The Hurdle". He has extensive experience and expertise in leadership, human performance, safety and operations. McPeak is passionate about personal and professional development and believes that intrapersonal and interpersonal skills are key to success. He also is an advanced certified practitioner in DISC, emotional intelligence, the Hartman Value Profile, learning styles and motivators. Reach him at