A number of studies show that as an employee feels disconnected and unengaged with their work and their leadership, their likelihood of leaving the organization rises significantly. Check-ins, or formal times to sit down together and look at the larger picture, are key in order to keep people around for longer. Here are some ways check-ins positively impact your team, and the work they do.
Check-ins keep accountabilityin place
You’ve likely heard the term, “inspect what you expect.” It’s a phrase that’s used as a reminder to leaders that they shouldn’t lay out an objective and expect it magically come to a successful reality on its own. If it’s something that is important to you and the business, you need to check in on occasion to see how the progress is going.
Check-ins are great for shared accountability, and that’s a good thing. Some people think of the term accountable as only negative, like someone is being reprimanded. That’s not the case at all. The accountability in check-ins is to see that we’ve made our agreed-upon progress in the finalized timeline. It’s a chance to celebrate or course correct as needed as well.
Associates want that level of accountability and clarity as well. Imagine giving your best effort into a project only to realize that you are off the mark because the requirements changed as you neared the deadline. Check-ins are also a great time to hold their leader accountable for the resources and promises that were made during the last touchpoint.
Check-ins keep things from hitting critical mass
It’s fairly common to look at big HR cases and draw a line back to a much smaller set of circumstances that snowballed into a massive breakdown for the associate and the business.
Check-ins are a wonderful opportunity to discover those issues and course-correct them before they turn into monsters that you have to deal with later. During your check-in be sure to ask some things about the larger team and how relationships and dynamics are working (or not working). Understanding these situations early and having the willingness and managerial courage to step up to potentially difficult conversations will help prevent future escalations and flare-ups. You can literally save someone’s career by leveraging your relationship management skills during your check-ins.
Check-ins are a compass for career growth
One of the most common themes that employees give about their leader and organizations is that no one has a career aspirations conversation with them. No one has asked them what they want to be or do at the company! Now, some of that could be that the leader is afraid to ask because they don’t want to know the answer. It could also be generational. Noone asked ever asked the leader, so the leader doesn’t put much thought into it for their own team. Regardless of the reason for the disconnect, regular check-ins provide an easy avenue to have some career-focused discussions. Discover their aspirations and help them make connections and acquired needed skills between check-ins.
Check-ins show you care
Above all, check-ins show that you care about the other person. Your team knows that you have a busy schedule, so they appreciate and recognize the time that you take to sit down and have regular check-in conversations with them. It’s another great opportunity to build and strengthen a relational bond with the other person as well.
If you don’t currently have a regular cadence for check-ins, I’d encourage you to do so with your team. Block the time for the next year on both calendars to prevent the time and tasks from getting the best of your positive intent. Your people deserve a regular time when they can get clarity on the role, share personal and professional progress, and feel like they have a clear line of sight for the next step in their career.
One of the guarantees in your work life is that you are going to be a part of new teams as you go on your career journey. Whether you are jumping on a team as a leader or a follower, it’s important to begin building that trust with them as early as possible.
While the reminder of building trust is a good one for us to consider, it can be far more challenging and complex to live out and be successful at. I can think back to times when it was extremely easy to build trust after they previously had a poor leader. Other times it was like climbing up a vertical mountainside because the team was so committed to the prior leader. Here are some strategies to think about as you work to build trust with that new team.
Find small wins to show you care
Ambitus leaders sometimes jump the gun a bit when they are with a new group. They want to show their strength and want to affirm their boss, and themselves, that their promotion or hiring was the right move. A mindful leader takes the time at the very beginning to learn about the pain points that people are going through and then they quickly and decisively make a move to secure a quick win. Some areas to look at include:
The common areas/break area: As a field leader, one of my first areas to get a quick win in was the breakroom. It’s amazing what a coat of paint and a little updating will do for morale trust-building. Common areas are another great area to consider. This need may not be voiced as much as in other areas, and that’s because they’ve gone blind to how bad it is. Use those fresh eyes you have to find a few quick facility-related wins. If you don’t have the authority or ability to make changes to areas like a breakroom, look for ways that you can enhance, clean, or add value to other areas of the shared workspace.
Efficiency opportunities: If you ask a new team what holds them back, frustrates them, or would be something that they would like changed, and they’ll often point back to an efficiency breakdown, an outdated process or redundancy in work. Pick out one or two that you can fix with a lower amount of effort and put them in place. People love when they can do their job easier.
Be accommodating: Get to know each individual and listen to their workloads and personal situations. Look for ways to be more accommodating by adjusting schedules, bringing in additional help, or helping people perhaps even change how and where they work.
If you can help in those three areas, you just showed your team that you care about their work environment, eliminated hurdles that get in the way of great work, and you an invested in the whole being and not just their work life. A powerful combo to build trust, wouldn’t you agree?
The key here is speed. The quicker you can get these kinds of wins the better.
Listen and learn before you change
It can be hard to walk into a scenario that’s especially challenging and not want to immediately change and fix everything. The trap here is that if you do start executing a large amount of change without the buy-in and trust of your team, your change won’t likely stick long term and your turnover rate is going to increase dramatically. Unless it’s a moral, ethical, or compliance issue, the problem can wait at least until you do some learning and discovery around the why behind the breakdown and what other circumstances may be leading to the issue. Be sure to approach the scenario from a curiosity perspective instead of one that is accusatory or as if you already have the answer.
“I would love to know more about…”, goes a lot further than “We need to talk about why this scenario is where it is.”
As much as your people want to hear from you, be mindful to listen more than you speak with your new team.
Gaining trust as a follower
Unless you are the CEO, you’ll also be joining a team as a follower as well. The temptation is similar here to try to shine and prove your worth immediately. Take a slower and more mindful approach here as well. Learn the dynamics of the group, who speaks up more, who holds back etc., while providing your input when it’s relevant.
Understand the people and build relationships with those you work with to help get an understanding of work proverbial land mines are out there and to get an understanding of some of the unwritten rules at the company. Also, consider:
Being genuine in your desire to learn about others on a personal level
Understanding how much time and space you are taking up in conversations
Keeping the same curious approach to understanding new areas of the business
Get your stuff turned in on time and be on early to meetings
Get to know those you lead and work with as you enter your new role and look for those easy early wins and be intentional to build relational equity early. You’ll be well on your way to establishing that trust that you so need as a leader
Staying focused is hard to do. There are so many personal and professional things that are constantly trying to get your attention and pull you away from what you are working on.
How well do you do staying focused on your task?
There is certainly an art to staying focused and getting the job done in an efficient manner. Here are several easy and practical things that you can do today to help you be more focused at work.
Keep your work area clean
The space that you work in can be a distraction to you in subtle or obvious ways depending on how much you clean up your workspace. Some areas to be mindful of:
Your desk should be clean except for the things that you need to work on your current task. Just like at home, surfaces tend to collect things. Get organizers as needed to ensure you don’t have stacks of folders, files, paperwork, or other items that can add distractions and stress.
Streamline your personal effects. I always encourage people to have some personal items in their workspace. If nothing else, it helps for people to see a different side of you and a way for them to connect with you outside of the workplace. Be mindful not to go over the top here. Instead of two dozen pictures, what’s your top four? Rotate them out from time to time to stay fresh. Keep knick-knacks to a minimum as well.
Keep a daily calendar and to-do list
I can’t stress the importance of keeping a monthly/daily calendar to help you stay focused. It helps you stay focused in a number of ways.
Set it and forget it! Requests for time, meetings, and other projects that pop up throughout the week and cause you to lose focus on what you are doing at the moment. Set those times and dates as quickly as possible so they won’t be a distraction and you can get back to work.
Pull the day off of your monthly calendar. Have your daily calendar handy so that you quickly see what you’ve got going on that day. I use a mousepad size pad (7in x 8 1/2 in) to write out my day similar to a to-do list. I have a good friend that prints her daily calendar view off. Many people are list junkies and this helps you stay focused on knocking each thing off of your list. It’s also an easy way to add things that need to be done today but don’t have a specific time attached to them.
Have a place to park your ideas
We’ve talked before about chasing after the proverbial rabbits that pop up in our daily lives, both at work and at home. Have a place to capture the idea, need, or topic so you can address it later. This is one of the reasons why I use such a large pad of paper for my daily calendar. I can capture several days on it, plus I have room to park these types of ideas and distractions on so I can address them later.
Minimize outside distractions
While you often can’t get rid of all outside distractions, there are steps that you can take to eliminate some and minimize others. Some simple things that you can do include:
Move to a quieter area.
Close the door to your space.
Let others know not to disturb you for a set amount of time.
Shut down windows, tabs, and apps that you don’t need on your computer while you work.
Take care of your phone
Your phone can oftentimes be an enemy when it comes to staying focused and getting things done. There are a number of easy things that you can do to minimize its distraction on you.
Set your phone to Do Not Disturb.
Have a dedicated charger at your desk that is just out of your normal reach. This will keep it nice and charged when you are done and makes it a little less tempting to pick up suddenly.
Minimize the number of notifications you get, especially ones that are pushed to your lock screen.
Communicating the vision for your team or organization is one of the most important things that you can do as a leader. Without a focused vision, employees can become lost in the meaning of their work, become unproductive, and have a higher chance of leaving to work for someone else.
In a Gallup poll, only 41% of U.S. employees strongly agree that they know what their company stands for, and only 27% strongly agree that they believe in their organization’s values.
If so few people connect to the company’s values, then how can they connect to the vision? Here are a few tips to help you communicate your personal and organizational vision to others.
Start with your values and purpose
Your people want to know that you have a clear plan for everything that is going on around them.
If you currently do have established Values and a purpose statement, reinforce and reintroduce those to your team. Begin tieing in your projects and work to that purpose, understanding, and set of values that your group holds.
If you don’t have established values, or if they need to be updated, spend time with key stakeholders in your organization or group to establish those. Avoid working through this process alone, as you’ll miss opportunities due to blind spots that we all have in our professional lives.
Build a good foundation that you can build your personal and company’s vision off of.
Say it again
The same Gallup poll also said only 23% of U.S. employees strongly agree that they can apply their organization’s values to their work every day.
It’s not like 77% of leaders and companies have never said a word about their values or vision for where they want to be. It’s likely that they said something early on, felt like it was communicated, or understood and moved on from it. Here are a few reasons why you need to keep communicating the vision to your team on a consistent basis.
They forget: Even if you put your values on posters in the office and make everyone use your vision statement in their email signature, they will forget about the overall vision of the organization. Think about all the distractions that happen to you on a daily basis. Those same types of distractions happen to everyone else on a regular basis and they need to be drawn in and refilled with purpose and vision to keep it top of mind.
The team changes: Perhaps you do a big visionary push a few months ago that was well received. That unified consensus quickly fades away as new people come on. Without that consistent cadence of vision casting, the team will eventually be filled with a majority of people that never heard your message.
The environment changes: Things change constantly. Look no further than 2020 to see how we can start with great intentions only to be thrown a curveball that no one saw coming. When shifts happen around us, we can sometimes question if the vision or purpose still applies. Communicate to your team during challenging times to solidify that vision for them.
We pay attention to what our leaders say. Communicate often about vision so that others have a clear understanding of what it is and that it is important to you and for them to be successful in their roles.
Always show them the why and the WIIFM
Help your team understand the why behind the decisions that you make as a leader. It will help them with understanding the need to change and will increase their buy-in to a change.
When communicating your vision for others, tie the action into the WIIFM (What’s in it for me). Show the person what benefits will happen for them as you work together to fulfill your mission and vision both on small scale and large scale goals.
Communicating vision is a constant process with your team. Just like a rudder on a ship, a proper vision may seem small in the big scheme of things, but it can steer you to your destination and without it, it doesn’t matter how big of an engine you have.
We sometimes think of employee engagement as a one-way street. What do we have to do as leaders to make sure that our people are productive in their roles? Yes, engaged employees are typically very productive, but they see engagement as a two-way street and more of a relationship. How engaging are you with your people?
You don’t have to be a leader at the top level to champion engagement with your team. In fact, you can build a very strong and engaged team right where you are by focusing on a few key areas.
Safety & Security
Safety and security will always be the foundational need that every employee wants whether they readily admit it or not. People want to know that they are secure in their role on your team and in the larger organization. Know, that doesn’t mean you have to say, “Scott, I wanted to just affirm you and say that your job is secure.” While that might be appropriate during a merger or acquisition if you said that every week, it would cause all kinds of stress for the person.
Focus on communicating clearly and often about change so that your team knows that there is a plan in place. Be honest and transparent during these communications, otherwise, people will fill in the gaps with their own interpretations which can cause unneeded drama in the workplace.
The last 18 months have been taxing and challenging to just about everyone in the labor force. One of the immediate opportunities that we saw as large work populations suddenly found themselves in a remote world, was a lost sense of connectedness to others.
Support and build a network of peers: Connect your team to other peers that may be separated by geographical location or business unit. Think outside of the box when it comes to networking. Look at professional organizations with like-minded interests to help further your employees’ connections to others.
Put your social efforts on the calendar: Be formal even in the informal to ensure that you are meeting people’s social needs. Whether it’s scheduling an outdoor meet-up, an online hangout, or larger events, be sure not to leave the social aspect up for chance.
Trust is a little more complex than the self-reflection question that asks, “Do I trust you?” There are four types of trust: Credibility, Reliability, Intimacy, and Self-Orientation. An employee that would rate you and your relationship as high in these four areas will be all-in when it comes to your leadership.
Time is truly an investment: As uncertainty, change, and crisis grows around you, invest more time in your people to build upon the trust that you have. Being visible and available to your team makes a world of difference for people.
Build a trusting culture: Culture starts with you. Create an inclusive and safe space for your team by modeling the behavior that you want others to follow. Lift people up, encourage individuality, and support people as they take risks in their role.
We all long for a sense of purpose in work and in life. Without a personal purpose to a larger impact on our work, we become unengaged, unproductive, and will eventually leave the team. With a strong sense of purpose, employees can navigate complex change and uncertainty while tieing their work to the larger goal of the group.
Share purpose stories: Share stories that showcase examples of how people are living their purpose through tough and uncertain scenarios.
Make it part of your daily dialog: Link the “why” to the “how” for those on your team. Remember that a great leader will consider the journey as being just as important as arriving at the destination. Look for consistent ways to communicate purpose to your team through emails, meetings, and calls.
Remember that everyone is different in their needs in order to be fully engaged in the workplace. Take time to identify those individual nuances and dial in a great strategy to keep your people engaged and satisfied so that they can have a long career under your leadership.
There are absolutely advantages in working from home; accessibility, a higher level of engagements, and lower costs for you personally among other things.
Working in a remote environment can be a challenge too. While Emotional Intelligence is a major differentiator in the real world, you can leverage and even grow your EQ in a remote world.
Turn the camera on
Whenever you turn on your camera you are putting a little bit of yourself out there. You are displaying vulnerability and authenticity to those that you are meeting with. This can help you and the other party build empathy with each other.
Be mindful of your background: Ideally, you want a clean and nondistracting background. Clean up the space behind you before jumping on the call. At my home studio, I have two closet doors that are in view. I always make sure that those are closed so that they aren’t a distraction. As fun as the virtual backgrounds are to use, stay in the real world if possible. They can be distracting themselves and don’t always work right.
Respect the time: In general, video calls do run shorter than an in-person meeting. Be mindful of the time and land the meeting a couple of minutes early to allow for people to close up and get ready for the next appointment.
Present yourself and your environment in a way that is positive and connects with others: We’ve all seen the joke about the guy in his underwear with a suit jacket on his video call. Put a little bit of effort into how you look to others. You don’t want to show up looking like you just got out of bed. Also, consider the impression you are giving others with your environment. You don’t want the amazing views of your condo to distract the new employee that just started at the ground level.
Lead with and master small talk
Some people hate small talk, but when it’s done with intent and with the right focus it can really add value to the relationship. Using small talk to build rapport and connection before you jump into a heavy topic can be invaluable to how the conversation goes.
Great small talk is always other-focused. Here are a couple of examples to contrast:
Before we get going, tell me how John’s baseball game went…..
Did everybody have a good weekend?
The first examples show you are being specific with the person, empathetic towards their personal life and affirms that you listen to the other person.
The second is not as strong with EQ. It’s generic and seems like you are just checking the box without a real interest in the answer. If I’m in a one-on-one I will back the conversation up if the person jumps right into the business. It shows them that they are my priority over the reason for us to being together.
Transform your small talk from an awkward silence filler to one where you learn and connect with others.
Be transparent and show authenticity
It may sometimes feel like as a leader you have to have all the answers all the time, besides, your people are looking to you for advice and guidance.
Be ok with admitting when you don’t know the answer. Your people will value your honesty and will build your trust level with others.
Acknowledge when you can’t fully connect empathically. Instead of trying to relate in an unrealistic way or turning the attention back to you, tell the person that you don’t understand the challenge that they are facing. Just being there and acknowledging the moment means a lot to people.
Use the opportunities in remote work to grow your self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. Grow your EQ and your impact on others will increase no matter the distance.