Many Leaders feel they need to remain aloof from their team. In fact I know many leaders that treat their teams like they are resources to be used and discarded. People come in, do their time/their work and go home; with no interaction with their peers, and most likely, no contact whatsoever with the person who is in charge. But what is the alternative?
Your team is comprised of PEOPLE! If you are the leader you have to interact with them, you have to learn about them, and you HAVE TO SHOW YOU CARE! Why? Because even the most Analytical person is still a person! He/she will have interests and a life outside of work. In many cases they will have ambitions and a need to learn. Or they might be completely content in the job they currently hold and don’t want to move, EVER!
But how do YOU as a leader know this? You can’t send out a survey asking these questions, HR would have a fit! If you don’t believe me, go ask HR. But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn about your team. If you are the leader, then once a week take a member (or two) from your team out to lunch. During the lunch, ask questions about them, use the opportunity to learn more about them. Ask where they went to school. How are the wife and kids? Ask how long have they been together? How old are the kids? Do they play any sports? etc. etc. etc. Now, here is the hard part… after the lunch, write down what you learned about the person. Take that information and make use of it. If you learned about a kids' birthday, put it in your outlook calendar with a reminder. When the reminder comes up, go past the person’s desk and tell them to wish their kid a happy birthday. Do the same for anniversaries. If you think a card is appropriate, then get a card (or better yet, keep a supply in your desk). The team member will know you care because you remembered what they told you.
But this is just a trick. It cannot replace actual caring for your team. It has to be REAL; otherwise people will know when you are faking it. You can manage the trick for a while, but without REAL CONCERN members of your team will doubt if you actually care for the team, or just your own goals and progress. So what else can you do? How do you show your concern?
First, DO NOT hide in your office. Too many managers walk into their office and sit down at the computer. They work on spreadsheets and reports; trying to keep ahead of the curve. They claim to have an open door policy, but don’t want to interact with anybody and the team knows it. So how do you keep this from happening (or correct it while it is happening)?
Set-up the computer, and while it boots, head out to the pits and interact with your team. At least say good morning to the more Analytical, trade stories with the Amiables and Expressive, and ask the Drivers how the latest project is going (If you aren’t familiar with People Styles at Work, by Robert and Dorothy Bolton, I would suggest picking up a copy). Now you are showing you care and that you might actually work with them rather than see them as resources to be utilized and pushed aside.
After that, do your work at your desk, and then work on your team. Do the lunch trips, check for statuses, and make sure progress is happening. And when the day is done, say good night to people! Don’t just bolt for the door. That too sends the message that you don’t care.
There are other things you should do with your team and we will talk about them in future blogs. One thing would be identifying what people need to move on in their career. You also need to identify your successor. How about determining where your team spends the most time and how to make it easier? These are all worthy pursuits that need to be addressed, and will be in future blogs.