- July 19, 2022
- Posted by: Hillary Feder
- Category: Employee Engagement
The last two-plus years have been wrought with uncertainty: from a tenacious pandemic and a sputtering rebound to Russia’s war on Ukraine, from soaring cost of gas to a scarcity of ready-to-work employees, from supply chain disruptions restricting businesses and frustrating consumers to the highest inflation in 40 years, and polarization like we have never seen. We’re all tired and spent coping with malaise. Most are wondering when does this end, or is this really the “new normal”?
Leadership Strength: Powered from the Inside…
As a leader, while you too might be experiencing these feelings, you shoulder the additional challenge of finding a way to inspire and nurture your team. This requires emotional resources that may be bolstered by some self-care and internal balance. In other words you need to be on solid ground to inspire your team to show up every day with a positive voice and attitude.
Leaders do. They build. They grow. They move their organization forward. To be successful, they need to know their people – far beyond direct reports. They need to engage with the people they usually do not have direct contact with. There are several small and simple (not necessarily easy) ways to engage.
Just like caring for a plant, you need to water and nurture engagement consistently: if you douse it with water, it will drown; insufficient attention will cause it will wither. Leaders need to show up authentically with head and your heart in communication and actions. Each connection contributes to understanding the people you work with, which in turn inspires them to contribute to your organization’s success. A combination of planned and spontaneous interactions will take you farther than you can imagine.
You may be wondering, “What do I need to do differently than I have been doing? Often leaders get caught up in the work of strategizing, planning and prioritizing with their leadership team. While this is important work, Interactions with front line or individual contributors, supervisors or managers you normally might not interact with can bring you different perspectives and ideas.
What’s more, creating opportunities to engage with those outside your direct reporting arena has an exponential effect. These additional engagements are with people indifferent parts of your organization, and whatever transpires in your conversations will often be quickly transmitted to others in their departments or business units.
Three Ways to Expand Your Interactions
Meet them where they are spontaneously
When was the last time you walked the floors of your office or production line and stopped by someone’s work space randomly and engaged them in meaningful conversation – a conversation focused on them and their work. If your team has not come back to the office, create a zoom call with the same intention. This connection with employees you might not normally interact with can help you get so much done in a short period. You’ll hear small updates; feel the pulse of what is going on, and you can reinforce standards. Consider investing 30-45 minutes a week in this type of activity and bring your digital device or a piece of paper to collect the small “to-dos” that bubble up.
Seize random moments of personal recognition
When was the last time you sent a hand-written note to people in your organization (not your direct reports) who welcomed a child into the world, suffered a loss, took on new work responsibilities, or was mentoring a team member? Acknowledging emotions – joy, pain, pride, etc. – is a powerful way to forge connection. This may sound old school, but the organizations we’ve worked with that have embraced this kind of practice swear by the results. People have hung it up on their cubical wall or shared at a staff meeting. In our stark digital world, a personal touch cuts through the clutter. Consider investing 30-45 minutes a week to make an everyday moment something extraordinary.
Create less conventional internal connections
When was the last time you created an unexpected listening session? Consider inviting a dozen or so people that would not naturally get together (different departments, individual contributors to senior managers) to meet in an employee lounge vs around a conference room table. Offer some light snacks (Munchies with Madeline, Snacks with Steve, Breakfast with Barbara, you get the idea), and create spontaneous, open conversation without an agenda. You will likely need curious “starter questions” to get the conversation flowing. You’ll garner insights about people, what is or is not happening in your company and more. Consider investing an hour or two a month in this time activity.
These types of interactions require a shift of mindset–from being interruptions to the “real work” – – opportunities to create community, nurture, motivate and inspire your people in the smallest moments. Your impact as a leader is built through hundreds of small interactive moments in time. Through careful listening, you can read between the lines, help frame up issues, bring perspective, and create confidence about next steps as well as the longer-term future. In many situations, the next steps could be to guide and develop others.
While none of these actions will change the uncertain landscape of world events, they can infuse meaningful awareness and confidence into your organization and people. Your inquiry and reflection help people show up with full intention when they know they are cared about beyond the work that they do.
Like these ideas, but not sure where to start? Let’s start a conversation. Email or call me (952-933-8365).