Leadership is one conversation at a time
We cannot emphasis enough how important it is for leaders to make the time for conversations, genuine two-way conversations with the people doing the work of their companies. We may be hyper-busy with meetings, reports, emails and calls, yet it is our people who deliver our results. They must be our focus.
Most meetings are inefficient and often unnecessary. One approach to solving the problem is to ask the people in these meetings for their ideas about how to have fewer and more productive meetings. They will know.
Let’s customize a productivity approach to emails, e.g., setting boundaries such as designated time for emails and trying to touch an email one time and immediately replying, delegating or other appropriate action. We are all different, have different support and so we have to create a plan that specifically works for us. There are helpful articles, books, and actually I would consider using a time management coach so we solve this problem quickly.
We must get out of our offices and off the executive floor or wing and walk the halls, hopefully at least once a day. Speak with our colleagues we see and stop by their desks and offices. Ask open-ended questions about:
- how they are doing
- what they may need
- how we can improve
- what they are learning from our clients
- about their ideas, and even
- any advice they may have for us
Thank them for their dedication and work. They will be appreciative and we will gain a wealth of good ideas.
We must try to speak with people at all levels, not just a select group. And we must realize every conversation is important, certainly to our people.
Ideally, we can create a culture where ideas flow up – the best ideas are bottom up ideas!
We must be genuine. People sense when we are not. And we should communicate directly and sincerely.
It is also important to learn the art of giving feedback, positive as well as constructive, so it is accepted appreciatively. Our people want to do good work and we have a duty to help them.
Feedback must be timely, helpful, specific, non-judgmental, and if constructive, offered in private. We should ask if this is a good time. And it is very important that we state our intent up front, that we want to be helpful to the person and care about their success.
When greeting people for conversations, put them at ease with a warm smile and comfortable eye contact, and call them by name. Let’s try to speak just 20% of the time and listen to understand and learn 80% of the time.
Remember, a short conversation is better than no conversation.
If we shoot to make this a daily practice, our people will feel appreciated and heard.