How to use the right side of your brain to build relationships with your team

Being an effective leader requires numerous attributes, but which side of the brain is most important in connecting with today’s workplace?

One thing seems certain: Leaders using one hemisphere of their brain almost exclusively may not command the room like they used to.

Though business leadership for decades has leaned toward left-brain thinking — the analytical, process-oriented and unemotional side — studies show the growing importance for  leaders to tap more into the right part of the brain, where creativity, empathy and intuition are housed.

Giving more priority to right-brain thinking is critical because compassion is one of the core leadership elements necessary in a complex and volatile age, said Tramico Herman, author of “The Crux Of Care Management: Steps to Managed Care and Patient-Centric Service Excellence for Leaders.”

“When leaders infuse compassion, they can transform their leadership and workforce,” said Herman, who has supported Fortune 100 health plans and providers as a director, senior project manager and principal consultant. “We’ve gotten away from compassion and taken the human side out. Without it, we’re not treating employees holistically. The result is employees are overstressed, feel unappreciated and get burned out.

“Most leaders are conditioned by the left brain and the bottom line, an approach fueled by our male hierarchy society,” she said. “Learning about right-brain traits is viewed as weakness. They dismiss the caring and nurturing side. But employees who believe management cares about them as a whole person are more productive and fulfilled, which means happy customers and profitability. We must bring the word ‘human’ into human relations and think of our team as another family.”

Herman said it’s essential for leaders to spend time with team members, get to know them on a personal level and establish relationships. She offers these five questions for leaders to ask employees in informal one-on-one meetings:

  • Tell me about yourself outside of work. Herman said such a discussion levels the playing field as the leader shows interest in the person’s life.
    “As they tell their story, encourage them to recollect statements about family/friends,” she said. “Usually someone from their family or close-friend circle motivates them. Be patient and let them answer in entirety. This question sets the stage for building immediate trust because they have shared some precious things about themselves and will feel gratitude by you taking interest and listening.”
  • What are your personal goals for the next few months?Many leaders focus on long-term goals associated with their organization, but it’s best to meet team members where they are, Herman said. Their answers to this question could run the gamut. They might say that they plan to move into a new apartment, or they need to care for aging parents, or they are trying to get caught up financially.
    “Your responses as a leader are critical, showing you  care, and allowing you to get them connected to internal and external resources,” Herman said.
  • How do you feel about the support you’re receiving from your leaders and peers? Herman said leaders should use caution with this question.
    “Team members may be intimidated by your role and uncomfortable with transparency,” she said. “Prior to asking them this question, let them know you understand everyone has opportunities for growth. Make them feel comfortable. Without complete disclosure, improvements will be limited.”
  • What are your expectations of me?
    “It’s refreshing for the leader to hear comments aligned with how the employee envisions you caring for them and supporting them as a whole person,” Herman said. “This is a big part of rapport-building. Ideally, mutual trust has been established with the first couple of questions and the team member is comfortable expanding on the question.”
  • Do you feel like you have what you need to do your job?
    “You will learn a lot with this question,” Herman said. “Training deficits are common in many industries when management feels strapped for time and resources. With so many people leaving jobs today, employees need to know management will go the extra mile to give them the tools they need.”

“If a leader makes their best, consistent effort to establish relationships with their team, they’ll be recognized as a fair, caring leader,” Herman said. “They’ll be honored to work for you and drive the mission, and it will lead to relationships of longevity.

About Tramico Herman
Tramico Herman ( is author of “The Crux Of Care Management: Steps to Managed Care and Patient-Centric Service Excellence for Leaders.” She began her nursing career leading medical-surgical and intensive care units, then transitioned to healthcare administration with a focus on care management. Herman advanced to leadership roles while developing strategies for processes improvements, reducing employee turnover and supporting recruitment and quality compliance with executive leaders. She holds an MBA in project management and became a consultant for various Fortune 100 health plans and providers.