Relational Intelligence
is a tool that can enhance the ability of any team to get along and prepare a leader to address points of conflict.  Relational Intelligence clarifies that “high-performing teams are built or broken by one thing: relationships.”1 Leadership dynamics like trust, open communication, positive feedback, clarification of expectations along with a healthy dose of accountability, will help a team progress.  However, every team and leader will face challenges. These challenges, if unaddressed and resolved, can lead to devastating losses.   


I recall meeting with a team of young leaders.  There was tension in the meeting.  I captured their interest by using Relational Intelligence (RQ) principles. I highlighted the different Motivational Value Systems in RQ.  One of the members presented the need to make a prompt decision crucial to moving forward as a team.  In opposition, another member stated, “I agree with you that we need to make a decision; however, I am asking for time to come alongside of those affected to explain the motives behind our decision.”  The first individual became quiet.  My experience told me that the apparent conflict was most likely due to different motivational values. I quickly interjected, “are you surprised by the fact that he said he agreed with you?”  He said, “yes,” then addressed the other individual: “I thought you were against me this whole time.”  That ensued further discussion among them, and the tension left the room after clarifying motivations.  







It becomes imperative then that the leader learn to embrace his role among the challenges.  Let us discuss these three challenges. 




Understand: to perceive the meaning of; grasp the idea of; comprehend. 

We all have the tendency to see things through our own mental grid based on our personal experiences and biases; hence, many misunderstandings find their root in our inability to comprehend what is being communicated to us.  The leader is challenged with the responsibility of assuring those being served with the clarity the assignments demand.  No one has the capacity of knowing our intentions, much less our motivations; therefore, it is a prerequisite that a leader who seeks to influence a team forward, makes the necessary efforts of being understood.  Just because you make a statement, communicate an action, or bark out a command, does not necessarily mean the audience has received the full intent of your communication.  You must go the extra mile to ascertain that you are being heard and understood; otherwise, the opportunity for being misunderstood grows incrementally.  Your team can come to a halt for lack of clarity.  Here are some tips to help you as you communicate to influence others. 

  1. Make eye contact 
  2. Be aware to the non-verbal 
  3. Ask for others to repeat what they have heard and understand  
  4. Follow up with a simple email outlining the conclusions you reached, or the steps to take 
  5. Be clear on expectations 

An unaddressed and unresolved misunderstanding can develop into malignment quickly.  This exacerbates the misunderstanding further and can truly cause damage to the leader’s ability to guide a team.  It is at this second degree of challenge that it becomes personal and more difficult to rectify.   



Malignedverb — to speak harmful untruths about; speak evil of; slander; defame. 

We all desire to experience a sense of self-worth.  Self-worth comes from oneself and from others; that is, those things for which we want to be valued.  Nothing is more damaging to a leader’s ability to influence others than when that leader is maligned.  An unresolved misunderstanding can further flame a problem into greater conflict by someone who feels undervalued and unappreciated.  Now, even irrelevant acts of behavior can become enlarged and fan a misunderstanding into a major conflict.  Soon you have complete chaos.  Like a fire ravishing through a dry forest so can unresolved misunderstandings, fueled by passive aggressiveness and hurt feelings, devastate the health of a once functional team.  This can also destroy the reputation of a once beloved leader. 

Relational Intelligence then can become a helpful tool for a leader who seeks to understand the nature of the conflict; thereby, address it and resolve it.  Although a leader cannot control how others will react or even how others will respond to an assignment, the leader should always seek to communicate value in the treatment of teammates.  In seeking to bring about resolution, the leader can protect from any further deterioration with the following principles in play. 


  1. Listen to understand 
  2. Keep notes on your conversations and directives with staff 
  3. Lead out of your values to avoid second-guessing yourself and your motives 
  4. Maintain a high level of professionalism in the workplace even with friends 
  5. Seek to add value to others even when having difficult conversations 


A leader who seeks to influence for the good of the team needs to address misunderstandings soon so that things do not escalate to malignment, and by sequence, down the slippery slope to mistreatment. 




Mistreat: to treat badly: Abuse 


The final challenge that a leader faces is mistreatment.  It is unfortunate when a team dynamic evolves into this sequence of conflict, but many do.  At this stage, someone will feel mistreated as the only action for the health of the team is termination: either for a staff person or the leader.   


It is unfortunate when someone who has great potential must be terminated.  No one enjoys being mistreated or terminated. This intensifies the need to be clear in your communications and assignments.  The clearer you are in giving effective communication the less potential for misunderstanding.  Cultivating a team dynamic that includes a relational intelligence with its language for better communication of motives and intentions, can help add value to each member of the team and enhance the leader’s ability to influence the team and catapult it forward.  Here are some tips: 


  1. Cultivate an ambience of open communication  
  2. Adopt the language of Relational Intelligence to address misunderstandings 
  3. Define what members of the team like being valued for 
  4. Address bad behavior quickly and deal with it soon to avoid ruining the team dynamic 


A leader will always have challenges to overcome.  In this slippery slope we have addressed, it is imperative that the leader makes sure to address misunderstandings quickly.  Opposition is not necessarily conflict.  It is during times of sharing opposing views and approaches where a plan can come together, and ideas sharpened.  Avoid the roller coaster ride down malignment where misunderstandings become personal and more difficult to address.  If the problem gets to the point of mistreatment, the sooner you deal with the problem the easier it will be to get back on track. 


Alfredo is an Executive Leadership Coach who leads from a biblical worldview. He is certified in several disciplines of assessments and uses Relationship Intelligence to coach individuals and their teams. He comes alongside leaders to help them gain clarity in their leadership style and strengths, and provides accountability to their stablished goals to help them grow personally and professionally.  He is a certified coach with the Maxwell Team as well as a Partner with Core Strengths (SDI) and a Relational Intelligence Facilitator.  He joined the BMOC Group in 2020 and heads their office in the Tricities area of East Tennessee.  He and his wife have been married for 38 years, have two grown children and five grandchildren.   

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