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3 Ways to Love Your Team (and Not Feel Taken Advantage Of)

A group of hands with red paint on them put together to form a heart

One of the best, and sometimes the most challenging, things for a leader who cares deeply about their team is to love them, while also feeling like they have been able to maintain the appropriate professional boundary. When I say love, I don't mean romantic love. I mean genuinely caring about the well-being, success, and happiness of another human being.

I’m a huge proponent of having fun and showing your team you care (love them)! Showing our heart makes us human, gains respect, and loyalty. We want our teams to WANT to follow us.

Unfortunately, we will sometimes have the person on our team that might demand more attention or time than we have the capacity or desire to provide. In all relationships, it’s healthier if it’s balanced and neither person feels taken advantage of.

Early in my leadership career, I veered away from getting too close to my team and I was always “professional." As a result, I didn’t get to know my team as well as I wished I did. I had seen peers getting sucked into office drama and didn’t want that to be my path. Later, I learned that there are ways to love your team with boundaries that keep the balance.

Here are a few ways that you can love your team and know that it’s a win/win!

Know their Appreciation Language

In February 2022, our book club pick was Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages. That month, I also discovered he also co-authored The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace. There’s even a section in the book on showing appreciation with remote teams, which is more relevant now than ever.

The simple fact is that each of us as an employee wants appreciation. How we desire to have that appreciation shown will differ. Getting to know your team well enough to know how they want to be appreciated makes it a win/win. You know what works for them and they, in turn, will feel more appreciated because you’ve been able to make it more personal.

There’s a low cost assessment your team members can take or maybe you can read the book as part of a team activity and have group discussions. Learn about your team and what form of appreciation they like and don’t like. They will feel valued and you’ll be armed with valuable intel the next time you want to appreciate one of them!

Give Your Time

We all know that time is our most valuable resource. We can’t make more of it - once it’s gone, it’s gone. When you’re a leader, there’s never enough time. How can you make giving your time a win/win? Be more intentional about how you give it to your team.

You can communicate boundaries such as, “All meetings of more than 10 minutes need to be scheduled." This would provide enough time for the casual conversation or that stop by the door or desk moment, but also help you maintain some control over your schedule.

If you have your calendar open for your team to schedule appointments for you, build in some necessary margin for the stop-by meetings and for yourself. Some recommend that this should be at least 20% of your time. When we make our calendars so full, our teams feel that the only time they can get to us is by barging in.

To really show you care about their performance and career development, regular sessions should be in your calendar and theirs. Whether you call these 1 to 1s or coaching sessions, these are vital to make it a win/win. It’s a designated block of time in both of your calendars and they know they have a forum to discuss what’s important to them.

As a leader, meetings with my team always started with understanding what they needed. I recommend that you make these regular sessions at a minimum monthly and for at least an hour. Anything less frequent and for less time will not make it a win for your team member. Before you leave the session, ensure they know the next time you’ll be together. Try to make it recurring in both of your calendars – much, much better for the both of you!

Trust Them

There’s nothing worse than the micromanaging manager. The one that even though you proved yourself time and time again, achieved credentials, and had successes, still didn’t trust you with the important stuff. (Or sometimes even the small stuff!)

DON’T be that person. Be better and trust your team. Trusting isn’t giving up power – it’s empowering. It’s also one of the ways you can love your team that is a true win/win.

Kouzes and Posner covered how to “Create a Climate of Trust” in their book The Leadership Challenge. My copy of this book is tagged so I can reference it time and time again and I encourage you to explore it if you haven’t yet.

They say, “Trust is the central issue in human relationships. Without trust, you can’t lead. Without trust, you can’t get people to believe in you or each other. Without trust, you can’t accomplish extraordinary things. … To build and sustain social connections, trust must be reciprocal and reciprocated. Trust is not just what’s in your head; it’s also what’s in your heart.”

If you’ve not been trusting your team, you are not only hurting them, but you’re also hurting yourself. Empower your team to use their talents and skills to create extraordinary things. Trust they have received the training to do well. Trust that they will do the right thing.

When we trust, we do take a risk. We risk that sometimes things might not be done just the way we would do them. There might be some mistakes. Help guide your team and be clear in your communication. Then trust. Look around you today and see that star that has undoubtedly earned your trust time and time again. Start with them.

The risk you take when you don’t trust is far greater than if you do trust. Open your heart and trust.

I hope you’ve seen how you can love your team in a way that benefits you both. On this Valentine’s Day, we hope you are loving your team.

What ways do you love your team and still feel like it’s a win/win? Share your thoughts below by becoming a JennQuest site member.

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I've had several "bosses" over the years, but very few "leaders." I'm thankful for my current leader as she's a true servant leader--jumping in where there are holes (no matter the department), supporting us to be the best for our residents and to have some fun while we're at it. It makes it easy to say yes when she asks something of us because we all know she'd do the same for us. And even though I don't have people working under me, reading the 5 love languages of the workplace was very helpful in my interactions with my coworkers--knowing what makes they feel appreciated makes the day better and the job get done more effectively.

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