Building Stronger Connections with Your Staff

Two friends having a casual conversation at home

In a report published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, University of Kansas Associate Professor of Communication Studies Jeffrey Hall studied how people develop close connections. He learned that it takes about 50 hours of time between two people to move from acquaintance to casual friend, 90 hours to go from acquaintance to simple friend status, and more than 200 hours before you consider someone your close friend. So, if we take that information and relate it to the time we spend with our staff, we can see how important it is to invest time in relationships! You want to build stronger connections with your team and the effort you make matters. As Aristotle said:

Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is a slow ripening fruit."

Having a strong connection with the people you work with is essential when you run a small business. While you may not become close friends with everyone on your team, developing a friendly rapport is key. In this article, we’re going to explore 10 ideas you can implement to build meaningful bonds with the people who work for you, including steps you can take to increase their trust.

Be approachable

Always show your people that you are happy to see them by giving them a warm greeting. We get so busy that it can be easy to give a quick wave and move on. Slow down and use those moments to ask about their weekend or tell them you’re happy to see them. Make small  connections so you can build a relationship.

Give compliments

Be sure to give your staff compliments that are genuine and authentic. Everyone likes to hear a nice compliment and be noticed, whether it’s because you love their new shoes, or you noticed that they went the extra mile in the classroom yesterday.


People like to feel like they are similar to you. For example at my studio, there are a few staff members that love Disney like I do, and we bond over all things Disney. It makes it fun to share stories and I find that the more we share, the stronger our connection is.

Be a good listener

Really hear someone when they are talking to you. Be attentive and put down your phone or step away from your computer. Giving them your full attention shows you care.

Spend time together

Plan time throughout the year to spend time outside of work as a team, as well as with each person individually. Regular coffee runs or group activities can help foster connections by allowing everyone to relax outside of their regular work environment. You could also consider volunteering for a local cause as a group.

Open up and share something personal

Don’t be afraid to show some vulnerability. Start by sharing something small like a worry or a fear. This could be something that you are anxious about that is coming up in your personal life. Opening up a bit of your personal self will show your team that you’re human, just like them.

Be open to receiving feedback

As a studio owner, receiving feedback from your team can be tough, but it also helps you grow and improve your leadership. Solicit feedback from your staff by surveying them or asking directly. And remember that giving feedback to your boss takes courage! Thank them for their honesty and kindness.

Enjoy a meal together

There is something special about sharing a meal with your staff. Create bonding time with them by asking what types of food and drink they like, or specific restaurants they enjoy. When your team shares a meal, members connect on a new level. They let their guards down and share more personal stories. Consider putting this on your calendar a few times each year, perhaps at the holidays or following performance times.

Have quality conversations

What makes a quality conversation? Balance and positivity! Help steer conversations in that direction by contributing, listening, and asking questions in equal measure.

Be yourself

Authenticity goes a long way toward cementing strong bonds. Studies show that we like those who we know like us: You can feel it when someone likes you! On the other hand, you can also feel it when someone doesn’t like you or is unsure about how they feel. Do small acts of kindness to let your staff know you care.

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