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Team Building lessons: Impression based relationships

By 28. July 2014

Your team connects over experiences, what you say matters less than you think.

Did you ever meet an old friend you seem to have grown apart from? One of the things you talk about the most are often things you did together in the past, sifting through the nostalgic shadows of a friendship that didn’t age as well as you did. Sometimes classic questions arise like “Why aren’t we seeing each other that often anymore?” followed by hard to follow promises about correcting that mistake from now on.

But what happened really? Did you change that much? You are still getting along incredibly well but somehow the relationship seems to have expired.

The reason for that is often rather simple: The foundation of your relationships turned from impressions to expressions. You are talking but aren’t experiencing anything new together anymore. What connects people is less the smart conversations they have, it’s the emotional landscape around the conversation.

Our brain gets emotions from the impressions of our surrounding. You might remember the first time your partner said “I love you”, but the emotions that make your heart tingle are intertwined with the environment, the subtle background, the smell of a perfume, the sunlight playing on the skin.

Our brain is all about content. Emotions are all about context.

That’s why managers need to remind themselves from time to time that good experiences are the glue for good relationships. You can visit your parents once a month for a dinner at their home (nothing wrong with that of course) or you could take them out for a hike from time to time. You can meet your old friends in your go-to bar and discuss the good old times or you could try out that new lazer tag hall and create new things to talk about.

Same goes with your team. CEOs tend to focus too much on memos and optimistic speeches to create morale. But you can’t talk them into loving to work with you, not with all the NLP-Books in the world.

That’s why many companies try to provide employees with costly company events, perks and sometimes even vacations, something that most startups often can’t provide. But there are far more inexpensive ways of creating that emotional connection – sometimes even as cost-efficient as a walk in the park.

Why Steve Jobs went for a walk

It’s a known fact that Apple founder Steve Jobs liked to have many important face-to-face meetings while walking through the streets around the Apple HQ at Infinity Loop. Along many other forsides (like staying in shape) it was a great way of creating a bond bigger than the average business lunch meeting. When he tried to get someone to leave his company and join his journey to greatness, he discussed this while stimulating their visual cortex with parks, people and sunlight. When they went back to their old offices the next day, walking down the artificially illuminated halls, to have a meeting in one of the conference rooms, it suddenly felt so easy to leave all of this behind for something new, exciting, emotionally enriching.

Steve Jobs wasn’t all-knowing, but he knew a lot about people and how to excite them. To think that his walks were not part of his emotional toolset is hardly unlikely.

This also shows that you don’t have to do something incredibly planned out or expensive to reach an impression based relationship.


  • If you want to create a good relationship with your team, focus on impressions.
  • You don’t need to provide your employees with big perks, use what your environment provides you with.
  • See emotions as the propellant for the content you want to share.
  • What you say only matters to people if they feel something while you say it.
  • Have a great many meetings outside.
  • A good speech is more than just is being said.

May your team have an emotionally enriching relationship with your company and old friendships become resurrected by new experiences.

Stay awesome,

– Felix

Felix Häusler

Written by Felix Häusler

Felix loves product design, marketing and good coffee. He follows the tech scene closely, with a special focus on SaaS businesses and a guilty pleasure for space travel. He is always available for questions and feedback via @felix_hau on twitter.

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