July 8, 2009 Chris Fuller

Relational Team Health

Fewer things can break the will of a team to run more than relational dysfunction. Small problems that should be easily overcome or dismissed become impassible barriers and thin, fractured ice threatening the team’s survival with every step.

Forget the competition – We’re too busy fighting each other!

As the leader of the team, it is our responsibility to monitor their Relational Health, just as much as their physical health or operational results. Why? Because if it has not impacted operational results, it soon will. As leaders, we are in the people business and people can be messy. That’s not meant to come across in a derogatory way – it just is. People have bad days or even bad weeks. If we are honest, WE have bad days/weeks. We won’t hire or keep people that are overtly dysfunctional, but that’s not always clear on the front end. When dysfunction manifests, it’s our responsibility to address it for the sake of mental / emotional / psychological health of the entire team AND the sake of the mission.

Relational health can be broken down to the individual and the team as a unit. At times, we will need keen observation skills to detect any issues and at other times you wouldn’t be able to miss them if you tried.

The team’s relational health is reflected in their ability to (pick your favorite buzz word): Communicate, cooperate, collaborate, synergize, etc. It affects every aspect of the team, in that it is made up of the team’s will to work with each other.

The term I use for Relational Health (or Relational Intelligence) is EQ. EQ is one of several terms that are used to describe this area of personal and vocational effectiveness. Just as IQ stands for Intellectual Quotient, EQ stand for Emotional Quotient.

EQ can be broken down into four areas: Self Awareness, Self Leadership, Social Awareness, and Relational Leadership.

In any relationship, our question sequence should be about self first, then the relationship. Am I AWARE of what’s going on with me (what I’m thinking or feeling) that may be adversely affecting the situation? Can I, then, lead myself or ‘manage’ myself to a better place of connectivity? From personal leadership, then we should develop the skill to be able to recognize what is going on with our coworkers, beyond just the surface issues, and finally, lead the relationship in the best direction.

Easily said – not always easily done!

The roots of most relational dysfunction can be traced down to a number of issues: perspectives (Sunglasses), communication, trust and offenses. Somebody says or does something that is a trigger for someone else and the entire team can break away and run down false trails in an instant!

As we start in this area, begin to watch for body language and team dynamics. When you are conducting a meeting or just watching casual interaction within the team – be aware of peoples’ body language. If someone starts to close off because of an offense – stop the process and start asking about their view of what just happened. Set the rules and start talking up the fact that you (as a team) need incredible Relational Health – if you are going to pull off your audacious goal – your “Burled Arch”.

Just start bringing things to their attention and talking about relational harmony, ask their views and take their feedback into consideration.

Functional relationships in business are no different than functional personal relationships. You don’t get to pick your birth family and, within some latitude, your people may not feel like they have a tremendous amount of control when it comes to their work cohorts, either. Working on this area and talking about it – can influence their feelings of power AND their commitment to the team as a unit!


I am in California this week, having spent time with my son who is in SOI at Camp Pendleton. We are working on some business opportunities here and then flying for a 2 week stay in Indonesia for Leadership sessions with companies there. Please keep us in your thoughts as we travel and we’ll twitter, FB, and Blog about our Leadership adventures. Stay tuned!

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