In order to learn how to form more positive workplace relationships and build a high performing team, I spoke to Lolly Daskal. Daskal is the founder of Lead from Within, a global consultancy that has counseled heads of state, consulted to CEOs of large multinationals, and coached budding entrepreneurs. You can subscribe to her blog or follow her on Twitter for more information. Below is a brief interview about leadership, teamwork and workplace culture:

Dan Schawbel: How do you identify your passion and purpose as a leader?

Lolly: My passion as a leader and my purpose are very much the same. I live to be of service to others, to guide them, support them, mentor them, inspire them, to be the best possible version of themselves.

Dan: What are some ways to turn a bad relationship into a good one at work?

Lolly: When a relationship at work turns bad it’s time for a courageous conversation:

Be Courageous: The essence of a courageous conversation is being direct and not fearful. When we are courageous we are fearless. When we act with courage, there is a certain grace that is brought to the conversation.

Be Present: In order to have a courageous conversation, we need to be completely in the moment. Often, in meetings and in relationships where we interact with others, we fail to be fully present. We go through the motions but we’re not really there, or we’re mentally checked out. In order to have a successful courageous conversation, we need to stay present and engaged. When we are present, we can be more aware of our feelings and the feelings of others.

Be Reflective: In order for us to have a productive courageous conversation, we need to be reflective. Sometimes we react without thinking about how our response might impact the person with whom we are interacting. Without being reflective, we might choose an inappropriate response. We may say something we will regret.

Be Human: When participating in a courageous conversation, we need to be human. Most of us have a limited vocabulary when expressing our feelings, so we are more likely to offer an automatic or habitual response than to connect heart to heart. When we are human, we have a need to connect, to understand, to listen, and to belong. When we are being human, we can bring meaning and energy to the heart of what is important.

Be Attentive: When involved in a courageous conversation, we must be great listeners. Pay close attention and demonstrate sincere interest in the other person’s thoughts and feelings. Be the person who is truly listening by tapping into hidden dialogue and uncovering what is not being said. When you make more meaningful contact, you are more likely to get the other person’s full attention.

Be Honest: When engaging courageous conversation, we need to be honest and say what we truly feel without putting off what’s really on our mind. Honesty is not easy. We often repress our true feelings, so much so that sometimes we don’t really know what we honestly want. We must be able to be honest and to say what we are truly feeling, seeing, and wanting. To be honest with yourself and others is to honor self. Being honest will set you free.

Be Curious: When involved in a courageous conversation, leave control at the door. Stay open and curious. The more you try to control, the more out of control you will feel. Try to understand what the other is saying. This does not mean you accept what they say as your truth: it simply means you are open to the possibilities. It is essential to remain open and curious, and not judgmental and controlling.

Be Accountable: When having a courageous conversation, being accountable means that you take responsibility for what you say and how you say it. Do not blame, claim, or abuse anyone else. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Be the one who recognizes that being accountable will help shift the conversation from blame to gaining understanding.

Be Committed: By bringing commitment to our interactions, we learn the power of courageous conversation. A commitment to being courageous fosters connection. Being committed to courageous conversation will make your communications clear and compelling. It will bring knowing to the unknown.

I believe that every relationship has something to teach us. If there is a breakdown in a relationship, the most important impact you can have is to communicate with a courageous heart.

Dan: As a leader, how should you go about building a high performing team?

Lolly: To create a high performing team, you need the following foundational elements:

A compelling vision and meaningful purpose: Top-performing teams have a defined vision and purpose that resonate with its members and draw them in.

Clarified roles and skills: Top-performing teams clearly identify the role and expectations of each member based on their talents and skills. Research shows that collaboration improves when the roles of individuals are clearly defined and understood.

Strategy and goals: Top-performing teams need a clearly defined strategy, plan, and goals. Strategy provides a map that shows where the team is going, and planning and goals tell how they’ll get there.

Commitment and accountability: Top-performing teams need for each member to hold a personal commitment and individual accountability for their role, while still supporting one another.

Mutual trust: Top-performing teams spend time cultivating trust, investing in relationships, and collaboratively developing and refining their mission, purpose, roles, and challenges.

Challengers and collaborators: Top-performing teams need diversity in personalities and talent. They need members who don’t just settle for pleasant conversation but who respectfully challenge and ask, and members who build relationships and bring people together.

Communication and dialogue: Top-performing teams need channels of communication that are open, authentic, challenging, courageous, and real. There is no room for passive aggression and backbiting. Team members are free to speak from the heart and embrace dialogue even in disagreement.

There will never be a perfect team, because teams are, after all, made up of imperfect people. But if you define these fundamental elements and a team is given the tools to truly collaborate, they can create true excellence and high performance.

Dan: How do you adjust the way you communicate based on gender and generation?

Lolly: When I communicate I am fully present. Gender does not play a role in my communication; my heart, my empathy, my listening skills do. Whoever I dialogue or communicate with knows I am there to listen, to understand, and to learn. Both genders have learning minds and listening hearts. Approach people as humans, not genders. When it comes to generations, I try to relate to what generation I am speaking to. People only listen to that which they understand and can relate to.

Dan: What are some of your best tips for creating a strong workplace culture that attracts the best employees?

Lolly: I believe the best cultures are the ones that invest in their employees, the ones that connect and communicate and make collaboration important. The best organizations understand and acknowledge that culture is run by the people for the people.

I have created ten commandments that have been included in the best organizations that wish to retain their top-performing employees and are looking to attract top talent:

  • View all employees as worthwhile.
  • Give all employees the opportunity to succeed and reach their highest potential.
  • Remember that all employees deserve to be listened to and heard.
  • Treat all employees as committed individuals who want to do a great work.
  • Allow employees to experience compassion in their workplace.
  • Provide a shared goal and meaningful purpose.
  • Create a community of enough strength that when the community succeeds, everyone succeeds.
  • Commit yourself and your employees to hard work, honesty, and integrity.
  • Express your values in everything you do.
  • Celebrate the humanity of everyone your business touches.

Employees are attracted to organizations that will value them and that make a difference in the world. When they are capable of doing that they will attract the best people. Business is better when relationships are better. Culture is great when the people have a say.