It’s easy to lose connection with your reports with so many daily disruptions – here are three practices to get you back on track again.
How many daily disruptions has your team experienced over the last few weeks?
Are they adjusting well to the disruptions?
Your answer may depend on the quality of your relationship that exists between you as a leader and your direct reports. How connected your reports feel to you can directly affect their ability to overcome disruptions and make quick adjustments.
This has always been the case, even in “normal” times when the disruptions were simple, like changing client needs, keeping deadlines, and internal coworker conflicts.
What is new is the rate of disruption taking place in today’s world, your marketplace, and inside your organization.
Our “new normal” is forcing us to make daily adjustments both large and small, sometimes even hourly! Moving our office remote, working with kids in the house, disrupted supply chains, changing how we deliver products/services, and many more disruptions.
Successfully leading your reports to embrace these necessary adjustments requires a strong connection more now than ever.
What Does it Mean to be “Connected”?
Direct reports feel connected to their leaders when they feel Heard, Understood and Relationally Secure.
- Heard – Your report needs to know they can share their issues, concerns, and even feelings with you. It is easy for your reports to feel isolated and alone in their work and they need to know you are there to listen to them.
- Understood – Your report needs to know that you understand the specific challenges they face in their work environment. This does not mean that you need to agree with everything your direct report tells you, just that you respect their point of view.
- Relationally Secure – Your report needs to trust they can be honest with you and that you will not break their confidentiality. The more honest your reports are with you the better information you will have to make decisions that are in their best interest, and your organizations.
Your direct report determines how connected you are to them. As a leader, it’s your responsibility to create an environment where these connections can form.
Here are three ways to start forming connections with your reports.
1. Start Having Scheduled, Weekly, 30-Minute 1:1 Meetings
A one-on-one meeting is the most important practice you can employ to create a strong connection.
It’s your chance to hear each of your reports’ challenges, understand their points of view, and develop a secure relationship built on trust.
Here are my suggested guidelines for leading a 1:1 meeting that connects.Schedule Your 1:1 Meeting
Getting on your calendar for a reoccurring meeting is a signal to your report of their value to you. Scheduling your 1:1 meetings at a consistent time also increases the likelihood you don’t skip the meeting when something inevitably comes up.Meet Weekly
We can hold only about a week’s worth of work in our heads at a time, if that much. So, you work on the relationship, resource needs, and challenges week-to-week. Over time your relationship will deepen and your collaboration will improve.
Because you meet weekly, you and your direct report do not have to make these 1:1 solve “all the world’s problems.” They just have to be long enough to make progress on a specific issue and answer questions while getting to know each other better.
Having scheduled, weekly, 30-minute 1:1 meetings may feel awkward at first, but I guarantee that after holding them for a few weeks you’ll wonder how you ever led your reports without them!
2. Make the 1:1 Your Report’s Meeting First
Your 1:1 meeting is NOT a status report!
It is not for you to check in on the progress of your report’s various projects.
You do not want your report feeling that your 1:1 meetings are your way of checking in on them. If you need to check on the status of your report’s work, schedule a different meeting and DO NOT call it a “1:1 meeting” (we suggest calling those types of meetings “check-ins”).
So how do you make the 1:1 meeting your report’s meeting first?
Always start your 1:1 meeting with what your direct report wants to talk about. They kick off the meeting, not you.
Let your report know every 1:1 meeting will always start with whatever they feel is top of mind or most urgent, regardless of the subject.
If you stick to this practice, over time you will see your team become secure enough to talk to you about their true issues and concerns.
3. Ask Open-Ended Discovery Questions
To feel heard and understood you need to get your direct reports talking in an open and honest way.
It’s good practice to always start your 1:1s with 1-3 open-ended discovery questions.
An open-ended question is one to which there is no right or wrong answer.
Asking this type of question can feel awkward at first, especially if you are the type of leader more comfortable dealing with data, metrics, and certainty.
But your role is to create an environment where connections can form. And a strong, open-ended question holds space open for your direct reports to speak up and be heard. That’s what you want!
Here are 3 open-ended questions you can try out in your next 1:1 meeting:
- “Tell me about last week. How’d it go?”
- “How are you feeling about the adjustments we’ve been making?”
- “What would you like to see happen over the next week?”
Use one, or all three in your next 1:1.
The goal is to develop connections with each of your direct reports.
There is no switch to flip that makes connections happen automatically. Just like forming any good relationship, it takes time.
Committing to these three practices now will get you started down the path to developing strong connections with your reports. Connections that matter more than ever in today’s disrupted world.
What practices are you adopting to stay connected with your reports?