These last several weeks and months have been difficult for each and every one of us in very personal ways. In talking and listening to my clients and reading a lot, one of the good things I’ve heard is how leaders are spending more time getting to know the individuals on their teams on a human level.
A key thing to note is that all leaders have teams of people and often they think of them as this: “my team” or as a collective group. And sometime, it’s easier to think about that team as a whole versus as a collection of unique humans who all have different thoughts, emotions, backgrounds, anxieties and dreams.
Leaders who inspire the greatest loyalty among their teams take the time to really get to know the people behind their job title. One way to do so is to ask questions and get to know a person who reports to you in a new way.
Obviously, you’re not going to ask the following questions all at one time. Or you may have different topics that feel better to you. The point is to spend some time thinking about how well do you know the individual people who report to you? There could not be a better time than now to start deepening your relationships with these individuals…because that’s what they are..unique humans with thoughts, fears, experiences that go well beyond their day to day jobs.
Some thought starter questions are:
Related to today’s times:
- What’s been the hardest part of working from home for you? Can we/I support you in any way?
- Are you worried or stressed about coming back to the office when we open for business?
- How are your spouse, partner, and/or family doing now?
- Are you feeling heard and/or understood right now with what is happening racially in our country? What have you been experiencing?
- Do you have other issues going on now that perhaps I could help you with?
- Who’s been most influential person in your life and why?
- What keeps you up at night ..not work-related?
- What talk show or podcast would you like to be on as a guest star?
- Where was your best vacation ever?
- Where did you grow up? Would you ever want to live there again?
- If you could be known for one thing, what would it be?
Asking questions like these is a great starting point. Then, when appropriate, take it one step further and follow up to show you’ve really heard them. I’ll never forget when my dad died, a past boss of mine not only reached out to me, but followed up by making a donation in my dad’s name. Another time, my boss – one of the best – pushed me to attend my high school reunion because he’d heard me talking about it. It was a great decision and I never would have gone without his nudge and support. Another time, I was really struggling with some personal issues and my boss (the same guy) brought me into his office and made a recommendation for how I could get some help. Not only did he recommend where to go, he took me to the appointment. Some may say he overstepped his bounds, but to me, in that moment, he saved me. I will never ever forget this.
The bottom line, knowing your people goes beyond just knowing what they do for you everyday. Why is this important? Leaders who take the time to get to know their people inspire loyalty, teamwork, higher levels of performance and an inclusive culture of people who care about one another.
Take a moment to consider how you can get to know your people as individuals on a deeper level as we all work through what’s happening in our world today.