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What is "high-quality LMX"?

Ever had a bad boss?

Maybe you didn’t trust him, or she didn’t like you?  Perhaps you spent more time trying to keep your job than doing your job.  Maybe you also felt that other people were treated better than you, or your boss didn’t give you a fair chance to succeed.

If this sounds familiar, then you’ve experienced “low-quality LMX.”  Leader-Member Exchange Theory (LMX Theory) researchers are interested in the link between the quality of relationship people have with their boss and various outcomes.  Outcomes such as…

  • Job performance
  • Turnover intention
  • Turnover rates
  • Peer relationships
  • Commitment to the work
  • Satisfaction with pay
  • Perceptions of politics

The list of what they’ve measured goes on and on.

What is “high-quality LMX”?

“High-quality LMX” is how researchers describe positive, healthy relationships between managers and employees.  These relationships exhibit feelings of trust, feelings that you both are on the same side, a belief that the boss cares about the employee and wants the best for them.

You can probably guess the effects of high-quality LMX on team members.  Studies show that individual performance is higher, turnover rates (and intention) is lower, commitment to the company and the work is higher, politics are lower, etc.  Many good things flow out of your vital relationship with each team member.

What can you do?

First, see your role differently.  Your job is less about telling people what to do, or even “just getting out of the way,” and more about building those key relationships.

Second, recognize that you have two sub-groups within your team.  LMX Theory calls this your “in-group” and “out-group.”  Your in-group are the ones closest to you, who enjoy a better relationship with you and the benefits that flow from that.  These are people who you probably have high-quality LMX with.

Your out-group is everyone who’s not in your in-group.  These are the folks who are most at risk to leave, who are more likely to have poor performance and be dissatisfied with their pay.  People didn’t choose which group to join, and you didn’t put them there intentionally, but those groups do exist on your team.

You may not have seen these two groups before, so It’s worth taking a few minutes and evaluating which group each team member is in.

Third, consider how you can invite your out-group to come closer to you.  Think about how you can give more feedback to them, use your 1:1 meetings to build trust, and learn to listen more and talk less.  When you make these invitations to have a better relationship, it shows your team you care and that you’re on their side.

About Marcus Blankenship

Where other technical coaches focus on process or tools, I focus on the human aspects of your Programmer to Manager transition. I help you hire the right people, create the right culture, and setup the right process which achieves your goals. Managing your team isn't something you learned in college. In fact, my clients often tell me "I never prepared for this role, I always focused on doing the work". If you're ready to improve your leadership, process and team, find out how I can help you.

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