Relatedness: The Key to Employee Engagement

October 15, 2018


Do you want to engage others and increase their commitment to your organization? Let’s look at a key factor in how the social brain works.


The need for people to experience a sense of belonging and attachment to other people is the essence of the social brain theory, the idea that animals in complex social groups have evolved larger brains. Current neuroscience research shows that our brains are wired to be social and that a feeling of being connected to others is essential to our well-being.


Organizations have become less personal due to rapid growth, workplace virtualization, competitive pressures, and such communication tools as email, text and voicemail. As handy as electronic tools are for staying in touch, they are not a substitute for face-to-face interaction. Leaders often talk more about numbers and technology than they do about people and relationships. Consequently, as organizations grow, the feeling of connection or relatedness decreases.


Fostering genuine relationships is about knowing others, and letting them know you. When a leader recognizes, accepts, or embraces what is important to others, the dedication and commitment to the leader and their cause increases significantly. Leaders who are skilled at leading with heart know what it takes to build relatedness with those they lead, among team members and throughout the organization.


Exemplary leaders build relatedness with individuals, teams, organizations, and/or communities by basing relationships on optimism, trust, and acceptance. This forms the foundation for powerful connections between leaders and followers.


Some leaders build relationships through heartfelt messages and passion, often without being in our physical presence. Some of the most notable leaders who have done so include Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, and the Dalai Lama. A common element in the leadership of these greats has been their gift to inspire and connect by sharing themselves through heartfelt messages packed with optimism. By being authentic and optimistic, they have been able to successfully build relationships with millions, without being face to face with most of them.


Relatedness is the key to unlocking commitment, collaboration and engagement.


Sandra McDowell, MA, PCC, CPHR, SHRM-SCP


Sandra is a sought-after speaker and facilitator on the topic of Leading With the Brain in Mind. She has a Masters in Leadership, a Certified Executive Coach designation, a certificate in Neuroleadership, and her CPHR and SHRM-SCP human resource designations. Early in her career she was a recipient of a national and international young leader award. Sandra’s interest in supporting the leadership growth of others has become her passion and purpose. She took her passion online in 2014 and developed the eLeadership Academy (, an online leadership program which is now offered nationally and internationally. She proudly serves as part of the executive team for First Credit Union as Vice President of People & Culture. Connect with her via LinkedIn or email. Subscribe to her blog to receive a copy of the Whitepaper: eLearning for Leadership Development.

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