How comfortable is your team in coming to you?
Communication is at the heart of all great teams. Without it, misunderstandings are common and many people feel disconnected – that’s when relationships start to break down and teams start to experience difficulties. So, when it comes to the everyday communication within teams, leaders should be asking themselves whether they are available for their team and how comfortable they are to take that step when it’s needed.
Keeping the door open – literally and figuratively
Checking in regularly, both formally and informally, is crucial for high functioning teams. Leaders don’t always realise that they’ve made themselves unavailable or unapproachable. For team members, it can feel difficult to strike up the conversation because their manager seems to be busy with no time to spare. It can feel as though they are distracting you or disrupting your day.
Unfortunately, letting this happen more than once or twice sets up a worrying trend within teams – a trend where team members don’t feel comfortable sharing their concerns and struggles, so they simply bottle them up, get frustrated, feel isolated and ignored. Before you know it, the conversation you’re having with them is about resignation. For many leaders this can be a surprise, but it’s easy to see how it snowballs.
What does it all mean in a world full of remote and hybrid work?
Many organisations are taking a remote or hybrid approach to work which means that face-to-face time together in the office is drastically reduced or, in some cases, completely non-existent. For leaders in hybrid models, it may be that your days in the office don’t always line up perfectly with your team members’ and the days that do can get hectic. For those still working remotely, video conferencing can make it difficult to pick up on the emotion and the energy of your team.
It’s no longer simple for your team to pop their head into your office and ask for a chat but this doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to check in or that you should put it in the too hard basket. Instead, leaders should be doubling down on their efforts to carve out time specifically to check-in and to make it clear to every team member that this is what the time is for.
Setting up a recurring monthly video call with each team member means that you get an opportunity to check in, to understand what’s going on in their world and how they’re tracking. These times don’t always need to uncover big emotions or unrest in your team – they’re simply times when your team knows they can come to you and share anything that’s impacting their work honestly and openly, without feeling as though they’re disrupting or distracting you from other tasks.
When you set up these meetings, make sure you have made it clear to team members that this is an opportunity for an honest check in, so they feel safe coming to you and, most importantly, remove your own distractions so that you are in a position to listen effectively.
What should leaders do next?
Communication is not just talking. It is also listening and acting on what you have heard to show your team you care about what they have expressed. After your check in, show that you have heard their concerns by confirming them in writing, if appropriate, and lay out steps to show that you will continue to support them through anything they may be struggling with. As soon as possible, set up another meeting for a week or a month later to show your interest in their ongoing progress.
Are you ready to really connect with your team? People Make the Difference can help. To find out more, visit www.pmtd.com.au or call us on 0412 333 415. Try our online leadership training videos – $99 for complete access. Great value if you’re committed to growing your leadership potential.