Some are called associates. Others are known as a network. Many are simply listed as contacts. What do you call them? If you want to build a team; if you want to influence others to be the best they can be, call them your friends. Those who work with you or for you are unique persons of interest who help you fulfill your mission and reach your objectives.

Treat your team members as friends and you will make an even greater impact. Build relationships with your team members and they will work even more diligently. Let them know you value them as individuals and you will increase their productivity.

Chick-fil-A founder, Truett Cathy, said, “Nearly every moment of every day we have the opportunity to give something to someone else—our time, our love, our resources.” Those leadership ingredients may be even more important than the seasoning in his famous chicken products.

Time: A decided focus on team members and their interests.

Love: A dedicated risk in affirming the qualities and personalities of a team member.

Resources: A tangible investment in a relationship with a team member.

It’s exciting to watch a group of athletes turn into a team. Each player brings a unique ability and personality to a sports organization. Some will grab the limelight while others will hide from it. Teams may play as a unit, but they run their plays as individuals. Everyone has a job to do, and part of that job is to be in sync with the jobs others do.

Who coordinates that effort: The coach of course. His or her job is to mold individual efforts into team efforts. How is that accomplished: Partly through skill, and partly through establishing relationships of trust with the team members. The coach’s intent is not to become buddies with the player; it is to become friends—to develop a working relationship through personally investing in their lives.

Perhaps no one did that any better than Coach John Wooden. His skill in earning the trust of his championship basketball teams made him lifelong friends with his players. Pat Williams quoted one of Coach’s assistants in his great book, Coach Wooden: The 7 Principles that Shaped His Life and Will Shape Yours. Assistant Frank Arnold said, “He was close to the players, but not that close. He had a closeness that was very meaningful. They weren’t fearful of him; I think a better way to but it is that they were in awe of him.”

Law enforcement often refers to a “person of interest” in a negative way. Turn that into a positive, and treat everyone as a “person of interest”—someone in whom you are personally and sincerely interested.

–Stan Toler