One of the greatest services that you can do to your team members and your customers is to make a genuine effort to get to know them. The first person I met when my company moved into our new home, the Atlanta Tech Village, was the head of security, who introduced himself as Jewell. He greeted me by my name the next morning. Later, he caught me in the parking lot and wished me good luck on my upcoming 10K. Turned out he knew everybody in the building, which amounted to several hundred people. And while Jewell may not be making this effort because he is managing all those individuals, but simply because he is an amazing human being, his ability to make connections is something that everyone, especially managers, should strive for. When you’re entrusted with the success of a department or a company, you are to a great extent responsible for the welfare of your team members (and of your customers, but that will be a separate post). That’s why it’s essential to find ways to make connections beyond your regular team meetings and one on one check-ins. Here are just a few ideas on how to accomplish that.
Be on the floor
Obviously, there are times when you need to work in a more isolated environment and retreat from the fray. But that doesn’t mean that you have to hide in your office and only be available during meetings. How about sitting out on the floor if you have an open office plan? Or carving out some time to work in a conference room and inviting others to join? Even if you’re an introvert, be sure to make a commitment to your team to stretch yourself, just like you’re expecting them to do things that are outside of their comfort zone.
Be there first
If you are the first one in the office in the mornings (or the last one to leave in the evenings), you create unique opportunities for one on one interactions. At a minimum, people know that this is a good time to talk to you without having to formally schedule a meeting. But interacting with team members when they first get into the office can also give you subtle insights into their routines, moods, and preferences. Even “small talk” can create a bonding experience and open up channels for other types of conversations when the need arises.
When it comes to being there for your remote employees or part-time telecommuters, finding ways to spark and maintain communication can be a bit more challenging. Consider making yourself available on Slack, or similar apps, at least for an hour every day. Note, though, that it’s important to establish some basic protocols in terms of respecting availability as signaled by status notifications.
Host cross-functional lunches
Don’t just eliminate your own silo – break down silos within your company. Cross-functional lunches, in which you take 5-7 employees – make sure that there can be one and only one conversation going on between all participants – from different departments to lunch and facilitate discussions around each person’s responsibilities, ambitions and aspirations, and ideas. During these meetings, be a listener and facilitator first, but don’t be afraid to invite questions either.
Join task forces
There are plenty of other opportunities for you to connect with team members. For instance, you can identify an initiative within your company and invite employees to join a task force if the issue at hand is near and dear to their heart. For example, your task force could revolve around sustainability and how to make your company more environmentally friendly. Or you could create a task force to optimally foster your client community. The bottom line is that it’s an excellent chance to make and facilitate connections while solving problems at the same time. (Don’t forget to celebrate your successes!)
One final note. Being accessible is a great first step, but you can’t expect your team members to be the ones initiating contact with you. Be proactive in your outreach and approach your interactions with each person in way that best addresses their uniqueness.
What about you? How do you create and maintain connections to your team members?