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How to Build Effective Relationship with Your Subordinates

Having good, effective relationship with your subordinates is critical to your success as a manager. You have to help them succeed for you to be successful in your role. So, where do you start? How do you build effective relationship with your subordinates?

Three key areas that you can start focusing on are:

1. Be open and respectful.

  • Share with them your work style, your likes and dislikes as well as your expectation of each one of them. Likewise, seek to understand their expectations of you.
  • Make sure you remember their names and acknowledge their existence. Treat them with respect.
  • Praise them for excellent work.
  • Provide feedback in private when they need improvement.


2.  Show that you care

  • Please appreciate that everyone has a life outside work. Be reasonable in your demands and strive towards providing a healthy work-life balance to everyone.
  • Do not penalize your subordinates for making mistakes. Typically, one has good intention in doing and executing his or her tasks. As a manager, you ought to take full ownership and accountability when mishap happens. In addition, have a feedback session with your subordinates. Discuss what happens. Have a conversation on what’s working, what’s not and what should be done differently? Agree on specifics on how to move forward.
  • Share credit for accomplishments, ideas and contributions. Promote teamwork. Be humble and recognize that as a manager, you are only as good as your subordinates are. Your results are actually their results. Hence, they deserve as much credit as you do in any outcomes that your group/department achieves.


3. Help your subordinates succeed.

  • Provide clear direction on what they need to achieve. Ensure that your subordinates understand your direction and where you are taking them. Validate that they have full understanding on their roles and how they would contribute to the success of your group/department.
  • Help them establish their performance goals. Get them to draft out their own performance goals (assuming that they have understood your direction and their expected contribution). Then, have a conversation with them on the drafted goals. Provide feedback as you see fit. Give them some room to negotiate their own performance goals. Mutually agree on the ‘right’ goals and establish method to measure success.
  • Allocate 30 minute 1:1 coaching time once a fortnight to ensure they are on track. The coaching time is “their time”. Hence, it is important that you respect the time and show up. Do not cancel or postpone your coaching time. Use this time to discuss progress, what’s working, what’s not and what should be done differently. Always agree on next steps to ensure continuous execution.
  • Practice two-way feedback for continuous improvement. Demonstrate that you are opened to receiving feedback from your subordinates and would act on the feedback received. This would build trust among your subordinates that you are serious about continuous improvement. They would feel safe to give and receive feedback. Gradually, this will become the culture of your department/group.


Question: Have you had any unique experience in building effective relationship with your subordinates?