Many leaders fluff off these skills as a nice to have portion of their job, but strong interpersonal relationships fuel all the results that you hope to achieve for your company. Here are four easy ways for you to build better connections.
1. Schedule time for your team.
You have the intention of focusing on your team, but it is often the last item on your to do list. That's why it's essential to specifically allocate the time in your calendar, rather than hoping it will happen naturally. You can schedule time to walk the halls or pop in team members' offices to reconnect at the end of the week.
Other options might be to leave your door open on more occasions, or taking the time ask about weekend plans. One client that I worked with made an effort to write in all of team's birthdays in his calendar. He used this scheduling tactic so that he could purchase small, thoughtful gifts on time. It is important to make it easy on yourself by using calendars and reminders.
2. Be yourself.
There is a lot of talk about leadership authenticity when it comes to building successful teams, but it can be tricky sometimes to figure out how you portray yourself in the office. The trouble is, if you remain guarded and don't show your true self, the tone that you set can hold back your team because they feel they don't have permission to be themselves.
Many leaders over the years have told me that they feel they need to curtail their fun side. They have the notion that it is important to be serious in the office setting. But sometimes this is where things can go awry because you aren't being authentic.
One founder that I worked with was having this sort of issue with his teams. He is a very fun and gregarious person, but he wasn't letting this shine through in any of his interactions in the workplace. As a result, members of his senior leadership team weren't inviting him to meetings because he wasn't connecting. The impetus for him deciding to make a change was when he lost a big contract to one of his competitors.
He started very slowly by scheduling more meetings individually with his teams and going to fun team events outside of the office. One small action that he decided to take was to smile more in meetings. As a result, he found that he was happier in many of his interactions, and he saw a marked difference in how he connected with his team.
3. Leverage technology.
It might seem contradictory to use technology as a tool to build meaningful connections; however, this tactic can be used sparingly as a supplement to your in-person conversations. You, of course, must have already built strong one-to-one relationships with your team members.
One leader that I worked with uses an in-house chat tool to supplement his meetings since his team is dispersed across many time zones. He leverages the channel for brainstorming, discussing hiccups in the planning process and a means to share ideas. On certain occasions, he also uses the technology to call out extraordinary work.
4. Use learning as a connection.
Your employees stay at the company because they want to work with you, as well as make progress on their career goals. One way to leverage learning is to expand out the agenda of your one-to-one meetings to also include a time to work on career goals or providing feedback.
One leader I worked with took a bit of a different spin on her learning conversations with her team. She still held individual meetings with the team, but supplemented them by holding open office hours--just like a college professor. Every two weeks, she allotted a couple of hours so that employees could stop by and discuss anything that was on their minds. As a result, she found that there was a lot more transparency in her team relationships.
All leaders are busy. But connecting with your team doesn't have to take a huge amount of time. By doing small things like leveraging technology, leaving your door open, or starting a conversation about learning goals, you can better connect with your team.