Engagement at work matters. Employee discretionary effort and focus are being challenged for many reasons, including the labour market and working from home.

People are finding it easy to find jobs and unemployment is at a record low. It won’t always be like this, however.

Developing the skills to engage team members is important. Maybe, no more so than right now. In years to come, when equilibrium between employers and employees normalises, the investment in these skills now will be returned in spades.

 

The Reserve Bank of Australia believes that the unemployment rate is heading to 3.25% by the end of this year. They then speculate unemployment will rise to 4% by 2024 in the wake of the economic slowdown influenced by rate hikes. The risk of not getting leadership and culture ‘right’ are significant.

Where we work has rarely provided more options. What we do at work and how we do it is changing. We spend 81,396 hours of our lives working, on average.

The question begs to be asked and answered then: If we spend so much of life at work, how is life at work going?

 

According to the world’s workers, not well. Gallup finds 60% of people are emotionally detached at work and 19% are miserable. (1) The levels of engagement continue to be alarming for Executive Leaders…or at least, they should be. Yet, these results have barely shifted in many years. Why are people not engaged and can something be done about it?

 

As a leader you are obligated to develop your skills to influence and support each and every team member. Your goal must be to ensure your team members are regularly performing work that they are good at and care about.

 

Every employee has to own their development and situation too. Choice and effort influence engagement. This blog addresses 4 key skills and areas to focus on that contribute to employee engagement. One of the most exciting aspects of developing these skills further, is that you the leader, will also see a significant uplift in your own engagement as a result of being more effective in your role.

It’s about understanding how important leadership and engagement are.

 

None of these points are theories. Yet, too often managers see them as negotiable. It is firstly important to recognise that we all have choices. We can choose to work somewhere or not. The feeling of being ‘stuck’ is one of the most crippling feelings. You have options. We all do.

Gallup estimates that managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement across business units. When Gallup asked managers why they thought their company hired them for their current role, managers commonly said the organisation promoted them because of their success in a previous non-managerial role, or cited their tenure in their company or field. Unfortunately, these criteria miss a crucial element: the right talent to succeed as a manager and leader.

 

Gallup research shows that only about one in 10 people naturally possess high talent to manage, and organisations name the wrong person as manager about 80% of the time.

 

We’ve also learned that one in two employees have left a job to get away from a manager and improve their overall life at some point in their career. At CoachStation, we believe this figure to be much higher, in fact, more like 2 in 3 employees. Given the troubling state of employee engagement in companies worldwide, it follows that most managers aren’t creating environments in which employees feel engaged — or involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace.

We have seen little evidence that the situation is any different or better in Australia, until very recently. In fact, the focus on themes such as strengths, personal values and coaching have been occurring in the U.S for a longer period. This has provided a solid platform for personal and professional development that is still relatively new in Australia. Thankfully, this attitude and openness to leadership and personal growth is improving. The fact that you are taking the time to read this blog is a positive example.

What’s more, companies that fail to engage their employees are missing out on the powerful results that come from engagement. Gallup’s latest employee engagement meta-analysis shows that business units in the top quartile are 17% more productive, experience 70% fewer safety incidents, experience 41% less absenteeism, have 10% better customer ratings and are 21% more profitable compared with business units in the bottom quartile. (5)

 

Business units with engaged workers have 23% higher profit compared with business units with miserable workers.

 

Additionally, teams with thriving workers also see higher customer loyalty. The point is: Wellbeing at work isn’t at odds with anyone’s agenda. Executives everywhere should want the world’s workers to thrive. And helping the world’s workers thrive starts with listening to them.

Before we go any further it’s worth making sure we all understand the definitions of employee engagement. The Gallup organisation provides an excellent summary: Employee engagement reflects the involvement and enthusiasm of employees in their work and workplace. Gallup categorises an organisation’s employees as engaged, not engaged or actively disengaged.

 

Employees become engaged when their basic needs are met and when they have a chance to contribute, a sense of belonging, and opportunities to learn and grow.

 

Engaged employees are highly involved in and enthusiastic about their work and workplace. They are psychological “owners,” drive performance and innovation, and move the organisation forward.

Not engaged employees are psychologically unattached to their work and company. Because their engagement needs are not being fully met, they’re putting time — but not energy or passion — into their work.

Actively disengaged employees aren’t just unhappy at work — they are resentful that their needs aren’t being met and are acting out their unhappiness.

 

Every day, these workers potentially undermine what their engaged co-workers accomplish.

 

In one of the largest studies of burnout, Gallup found the biggest source was “unfair treatment at work.” That was followed by an unmanageable workload, unclear communication from managers, lack of manager support and unreasonable time pressure. Those five causes have one thing in common: your boss. Get a bad one and you are almost guaranteed to hate your job. A bad boss will ignore you, disrespect you and never support you. Environments like that can make anyone miserable.

 

A manager’s effect on a workplace is so significant that Gallup can predict 70% of the variance in team engagement just by getting to know the boss. (1)

 

The McKinsey group recently published an excellent resource regarding attrition and the reasons why people leave organisations. This data is current and it is real, being consistent with what many of my clients are telling me. To navigate this new playing field successfully, hiring managers can look beyond the current imbalance in labor supply and demand and consider what different segments of workers want and how best to engage them. To do this, employers should understand the common themes that reveal what people most value, or most dislike, about a job.

 

For instance, it cannot be overstated just how influential a bad boss can be in causing people to leave.

 

And while in the past an attractive salary could keep people in a job despite a bad boss, that is much less true now than it was before the pandemic. Our survey shows that uncaring and uninspiring leaders are a big part of why people left their jobs, along with a lack of career development. Flexibility, on the other hand, is a top motivator and reason for staying. (2)

Exiting workers told us that relationships in their workplace were sources of tension and that they didn’t feel that their organisations and managers cared about them.

 

In this latest round, respondents again cited uncaring leaders (35 percent listed it as one of their top three reasons for leaving), but they added a new range of top motivators, including inadequate compensation, a lack of career advancement, and the absence of meaningful work.

In other words, plenty of employees say that they see no room for professional or personal growth, believe that there is better money to be made elsewhere, and think that leaders don’t care enough about them. Tried-and-true reasons for disgruntlement, to be sure, but ones that are now being acted upon broadly. (2) The data provided in the graphic below is compelling. 

 

There is no room for complacency. In the recently published State of the Global Workplace report, 45% of employees said now is a good time to find a job.

 

This is up slightly from last year, but less than the record 55% in 2019. The regional outlier for this item is the United States and Canada, which leads the world at 71%, up 44 percentage points from the previous year. The next closest regions are Australia and New Zealand at 59% and South Asia at 50%. (1) Reading the language and results in the McKinsey graphic highlights a few key themes.

 

Namely, that the top reasons for quitting closely align to fulffilling work; engagement; and relationships.

 

Engagement and wellbeing interact with each other in powerful ways. We often think of engagement as something that happens at work and wellbeing as something that happens outside of work, but Gallup’s analysis suggests that’s a false dichotomy.

  • How people experience work influences their lives outside of work. Employees who consistently experience high levels of burnout at work say their job makes it difficult to fulfill their family responsibilities. They are also 23% more likely to visit the emergency room.
  • Overall wellbeing influences life at work. Employees who are engaged at work but not thriving have a 61% higher likelihood of ongoing burnout than those who are engaged and thriving.

When leaders take responsibility for the wellbeing of their workers, the result is not only productive organisations, but thriving individuals, families and communities. (1)


The majority of the coaching and mentoring themes that I employ relate to communication to some degree.

 

It is a common gap in skills and capability for many and has a direct influence on engagement levels. Organisations often assume that these skills exist in their managers, yet rarely meaningfully focus on developing newer leaders to build on this capability.

 

Let’s be honest, it’s not like all senior managers regularly role model these behaviours and provide effective communication either.

 

I recognise this is a generalised statement. Yet, I am confident that many people reading this blog, no matter what level they work at, would genuinely question how effectively their immediate manager communicates with them and their team mates.

It appears that communication at all levels could be improved. The great news; these are skills that can be developed by most people – if they put in the effort! A study of managers by Interact Studio and Harris Poll revealed that communicating is not only an employee issue.

 

This study showed that 69% of managers are just as afraid of communication as their team members.

 

CoachStation: Why managers are uncomfortable giving feedback

 

If both sides are afraid to have tough conversations, these conversations will be avoided. Managers must have the courage and confidence to communicate with their team, no matter what the message is. Comfort and skills can be improved if there is a focus on communication.

In recent years I have developed a tool regarding communication effectiveness. It highlights the need for depth in conversation. To verbally communicate well provides meaning and purpose. It allows for understanding and often, clarity and context. Purpose influences action and improvement.

 

Unfortunately, many managers do not develop this skill to the level required.

 

Essentially, we can communicate at various levels of depth. However, most business communication (and that at home too!) often occurs at a moderate and superficial level, at best. I would describe this as a level 1 or 2 type of communication.

 

CoachStation_Levels of Effective Communication and Leadership

 

The goal is to develop your communication skills to at least Level 3. The diagram above extends this concept. The 5 levels of effective communication highlighted are described in further detail in the following blog: Communicate Effectively to Influence and Lead

Outside of company all-hands meetings and occasional corporate-wide memos, a manager is an employee’s strongest connection to company leadership day in and day out. Their communication (or lack thereof) is what keeps an employee feeling connected to the purpose of their work, and in the loop on what they need to know.

When communication breaks down somewhere in the leadership hierarchy, everyone suffers. This is when people feel out of the loop. It’s also when they get frustrated by putting their efforts into work that doesn’t matter.

It’s the job of every manager to help with the flow of information up and down the organisation. When people express frustration with leadership, it’s usually due to a failure in that flow.

 


Developing trusted relationships; establishing clear expectations; and, making accountability a cultural norm in the team all influence engagement levels.

 

One of the biggest challenges for managers who are learning to lead is developing the ability to set expectations and standards. Accountability is the outcome of holding your employees to these standards and expectations. It is also about the employees accountability to themselves.

 

Understanding the benefits and why to apply a model such as our REOWM model can make a real difference. However, application, consistency and follow-through can be a challenge for many. The 5 stages of the model create a structured process for leading and coaching your team members, focused mostly on clarity, context and accountability. I have found that resources such as these can help leaders to understand not only what needs to be developed, but importantly, also how to do so.

CoachStation: REOWM Coaching, Leadership and Accountability Model

 

Often leaders are wary of providing their own view as it is seen as subjective. Don’t be frightened to seek and provide this detail as (particularly when respect and trust exist) a simple acknowledgement or recognition of progress can be the difference between an engaged and disengaged employee.

The opportunity to provide greater context and clarity for people is one that I regularly see could be improved in most organisations. Depth and substance in coaching and 1:1 sessions is critical and a tool such as this can make a real and sustained difference when applied. Each step is important and has its own need. Practice the art and science of effective leadership by using tools such as this.

The REOWM model is described in further detail in the following page of the CoachStation website: Accountability and Expectations – REOWM Model

 


Leaders are under pressure. Behaviours and integrity can be challenged in these environments. I am aware of various situations at the moment where managers are avoiding managing a toxic employee through fear of them leaving the organisation. In a few cases I am hearing the message, “I can’t afford to manage them and risk attrition. We are a team of 9 and I am already 2 staff down. We have been looking to replace them for 10 months, with no success and I can’t afford to lose anyone else”. 

I would argue, it depends on how you measure success! I understand the concern, the final statement about losing team members and managing workloads.

 

But, here’s the thing. The damage this toxic employee is bringing to the table is almost certainly greater than the impact of them leaving.

 

And, it is almost certainly negatively impacting engagement levels within the whole team. A recent Lighthouse blog highlighted a report from Harvard Business School, where Michael Housman and Dylan Minor broke down the real cost of toxic employees.

 

“In comparing the two costs, even if a firm could replace an average worker with one who performs in the top 1%; it would still be better off by replacing a toxic worker with an average worker by more than two-to-one.”

 

Toxic employees don’t just underperform compared to a great employee in the long run, they bring the entire team down with them. A good employee sees this and feels it first-hand. After a while, they can’t take it anymore. Seeing that you apparently don’t mind having an asshole around, they may decide to leave. Get rid of those toxic team members – don’t try to make these ones work.

 

Even if the employee is high-performing, they have to go, because of the negative impact they have on the rest of the team.

 

Unfortunately, even if their numbers seem great, they’re still a net negative in terms of the impact they have on the rest of your team. They have to either reform their ways, or leave. When they leave, the performance of everyone on the team will improve by their absence, so there’s really only one thing to do: let them go and reap the benefits. Don’t let a toxic team member be why good employees quit your team. (3)

As highlighted extensively in this blog, one of the key contributors to engagement is the employee’s immediate manager. This can either be a negative or positive influence. Both the manager and employee have a responsibility to own engagement. The skills and capability can be learned.

The real challenge is whether the time and effort to focus on developing these skills is a priority. If not, the results are inevitable. What environment and culture would you prefer to spend over a quarter of your life in?

 

References and Resources:

(1) State of the Global Workplace – 2022 Report: Gallup

(2) Five personas: A new way to target the employee value proposition: McKinsey

(3) 14 Reasons Why Great Employees Quit Your Team (and How to Keep a Good Employee from Quitting): GetLighthouse

(4) Why People Leave Managers not Companies (and 5 things you can do about it): Get Lighthouse

(5) Strengths-Based Employee Development: The Business Results, Bruno Zadeh, LinkedIn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Few managers and leaders are conducting useful one-on-ones and when they do, often miss the mark in making them effective and productive. There is value in learning how to facilitate a one-on-one that provides value for all involved.

Two of the most important, yet under-rated skills for managers and leaders are listening and questioning. To be present and focused and know what key question to ask at the right time add value to any relationship and discussion. They are particularly important during one-on-ones with your employees and offer a couple of great examples of development opportunities. Yet, there are many more growth areas that can be learned and practiced as a leader through focused, individual time spent with each team member.

CoachStation: Management, Leadership Coaching and One-on-Ones

One-on-ones are a tool and a process. When conducted well they are an incredibly useful and effective part of leadership and developing effective relationships. The opposite is just as true. When avoided, gaps and misunderstandings often exist as a direct result. Your willingness to learn how to conduct one-on-ones effectively will have a direct impact on your team and your results. Outcomes and benefits include; each team member will be more engaged; trust is increased; the leader an employee earn the right to be heard; influence improves; and you both earn the right to discuss relevant, meaningful topics.

The most effective one-on-ones are action-oriented and holistic in their approach. This means that all aspects of the employee’s performance and mindset are discussed.

If you aren’t having one on ones with your team, you’re missing out on an incredible motivating, problem solving, pressure relieving opportunity to help and grow your team. But even if you’re totally bought into starting them, it can be intimidating to actually get started. Like the first time for many things, when you start, it’s easy to feel unsure what to do. When you start, there can be many questions like:

  • What do I talk about?
  • What do I say to my team?
  • How often should I have them?
  • What if my team doesn’t want to talk to me?
  • When should I schedule them?
  • …and many more. (3)

All good questions that are addressed in this blog. But, first things first.

It is of great interest to me how few managers bother with meeting formally in any capacity on a regular basis with their team members. Taking this one step further, it is a shame how many managers avoid this key part of their role. It is too easy to get caught up in the operational and tactical aspects of management. Being a leader compels contact and connection with your direct reports. Although many fail to make the time for this, it is in fact an obligation of being a leader. To feel the many benefits and rewards requires a conscious plan to engage and persist whilst practicing the skill-sets that make it work.

To see time dedicated to each team member as somehow negotiable misses the point regarding being a leader.

Worldwide, the percentage of adults who work full-time for an employer and are engaged at work — they are highly involved in and enthusiastic about their work and workplace — is just 15%. That low percentage of engaged employees is a barrier to creating high-performing cultures. It implies a stunning amount of wasted potential, given that business units in the top quartile of our global employee engagement database are 17% more productive and 21% more profitable than those in the bottom quartile.

Businesses that orient performance management systems around basic human needs for psychological engagement — such as positive workplace relationships, frequent recognition, ongoing performance conversations and opportunities for personal development — get the most out of their employees. (1) If spending time with your team members is not your key priority you are missing one of the most valuable aspects of your role as a leader.

Communication, clarity, context, expectation setting, checking for understanding and similar key requirements form part of this discussion.

Consolidation and reinforcement occurs in between formal sessions, during ad-hoc catch-ups. They are extremely valuable and important. However, there needs to be a formal, established rhythm where real and honest discussion can take place. This should be done in a private setting where both the leader and employee can feel comfortable to raise any relevant points. These discussions form the basis for most performance reviews and development opportunities. The chance to reduce or remove assumptions is also of great benefit.

An effective one-on-one is a discussion with purpose. It has two-way communication and feedback; invites self-assessment; invests in the relationship; and has actions and outcomes.

10 Ways Leaders Aren’t Making Time for their Team Members (Infographic): Blanchard LeaderChat

There is something to be said, however, about occasionally changing the setting. Some of the best one on one discussions I have had occurred during a walk around the block or at a cafe’.

As with all relationships, it is important to know your team members well enough to know what their preferences are.

Clearly,  going for a walk with an employee with health issues might be challenging and potentially do more harm than good, for example.

I often hear statements from managers like, “my door is always open”. The assumption that this style creates opportunity for meaningful discussion is flawed.

Not all of your team members will approach you proactively to raise all of their issues and successes. Quite often the key few will ‘pop into your office’ to vent or raise concerns.

Regularly the same employees will chat about the same challenges and points, visit after visit. Reactive conversations based on specific issues become the norm.

Of course, not all of your team will approach you just because you ‘offered’, One-on-ones provide the alternative options. Personal and professional points are discussed.

You need to give these meetings a fair amount of time to make sure you really dig into issues that are bothering them, fully explore ideas with them, and have a good opportunity to coach them when needed.

You’ll also build their confidence and trust in you that when they come to you with a problem you will not only listen, but help them do something about it. (3)

One-on-ones are proactive in nature, identifying and addressing things before they escalate.

The ‘door is open approach’ is reactive and covers the select few issues that your team members choose to raise – it assumes too much and is quite a lazy approach. It is often an approach based on the manager – their fears, self-doubts and lack of confidence to manage the conversations. The one-on-one should be mostly about the employee. Conversely, relationship-based one-on-ones are proactive as they delve and discover opportunities that may not have been identified without facilitating and questioning.

The discussion is meaningful in that it maintains flow and momentum in actions, progress and meeting goals.

The ironic part of this mindset is that a focus away from your team rarely ends well. The most relevant and impactful way to be able to influence outcomes and results is via the effectiveness, capability, competence and confidence of each team member. This takes focus and development. To assume that this growth will occur without your guidance and assistance as their immediate manager/leader reflects inexperience or avoidance. Related to this, emphasis on results and outcomes without understanding the inputs and contributors drives managers towards the wrong focus. This could appear as an unsupported challenge or even worse, a threat or coercion.

I have already touched on a few key benefits of one-on-ones. However, the most important element references the risks if you don’t formalise these discussions.

What causes some people to fully commit to the team and give their max effort while others don’t? It’s trust. In research conducted by The Ken Blanchard Companies and Training Magazine, over 60% of respondents say the most important factor influencing the effort they give to a team is how much they trust their fellow teammates.

Having high trust in your teammates frees you up to focus on your own contributions without worrying about others following through on their commitments. Trusting your team gives you freedom to take risks, knowing your teammates have your back and will support you. Team trust allows you to have open and honest dialogue and healthy debate that leads to better decision-making, and conflict gets resolved productively instead of people sandbagging issues or sabotaging the efforts of others. But developing trust in your teammates doesn’t happen by accident; it takes an intentional effort to proactively build trust. (2) It is a very similar factor when considering the relationship between a leader and direct report…but, more impactful in most cases.

Trust cannot be built from afar or in spite of the effort to develop effective relationships. Regular one-on-ones provide that opportunity.

When you have scheduled the sessions, commit to them. Cancelling or constantly moving the one-on-ones sends a very clear message about your priorities. Remember, most leaders have around 160+ hours / month to accomplish their work. Focusing on the single greatest impact on the success of that work (hint: your team members) for 10-20 hours / month seems like a pretty solid investment! Let your team know you want to have one on ones to help them. If they’ve never had them before, they may not know what to expect, so it helps to give them a little background before the first one. (3) Over time, you can shift the accountability of scheduling and agenda-setting to your employee.

Regular conversations that contain actions and outcomes create a baseline for development. The CoachStation REOWM Leadership Accountability model provides a solid framework to assist in your one-on-ones. Access a copy of the REOWM model and explanations for each of the 5 steps here.

It is important to spend a few minutes preparing for each one-on-one.

Leadership expert, Kevin Eikenberry correctly states that: the best meetings have agendas, and while your one-on-one meetings likely won’t have a formal agenda (although they could), for them to be most effective and productive, both parties need to be clear on the expectations, goals, and outcomes for these meetings. Since you are likely having these meetings already without this clarity, make this a topic of conversation the next time you meet.

As a leader, don’t just assume others know what you want from these meetings – talk to them and share your needs and goals for your one-on-ones.

As a team member ask for what you need.  If you are hoping for/need something from these meetings (like more direction, for example), ask for it. (4)

I have found that a consistent agenda containing 3 key elements works well in establishing a standard, expectations and agreed outcomes:

Agenda:

What’s on your mind?

What would you like to discuss?

Progress:

How have you gone since we last met?

Did your actions work?

What did you learn as a result?

How do you know they worked?

Actions:

What do you need to do to reinforce and consolidate recent learning and actions?

What have you taken away from today’s one-on-one?

Are there any new potential actions?

There is value if your team member takes control of the meeting. It may take a couple of one-on-ones for them to get comfortable and understand your expectations and how best to apply them, but it is their time, so your employee should own it. Support them into this though, being fair and clear about how this looks and what they should do.

Too often the one-on-one meeting becomes tactical and just about day to day issues and tasks.

 

Access additional great examples of coaching questions you can use in any discussion – 50 Power Questions


Self-assessment and reflection is generally more useful than solely providing feedback. You will find that through asking the right questions and listening well, there is much to learn about each person. You can then provide your own thoughts and feedback throughout the discussion, in response to your employee. It may seem subtle but is actually a significant shift in accountability and ownership. It also makes the session easier for the leader as they quickly learn that they don’t have to have all the answers. These details are important, but if you want to have more effective and valuable one-on-one meetings, think bigger picture.

As a leader, be observant, and make coaching and feedback a part of the list of things you routinely talk about in these meetings. Consider asking for feedback on your performance too.

As a team member, if you want more feedback in general, or specific guidance on a situation, ask for it. The one-on-one meeting is a time you will have your leader’s attention, so use it to get the feedback you need. (4) Regular follow-up and development of accountability provides momentum and progression.

Monthly meetings are ok, however fortnightly is best in my experience. It is generally better to conduct fortnightly one-on-ones of 45 minutes in length compared to monthly sessions of an hour or longer.

This does depend on the number of direct reports, employee tenure and competence, amongst other judgements you must make. Finally, a good rule-of -thumb to follow is to make sure that each one-on-one covers 3 key categories. Assuming a 60 minute session is scheduled, break the session into thirds or 20-minute segments:

    • 20 minutes: Tasks = Focus on results, tasks and operational work i.e. the things that your employee does.
    • 20 minutes: Self = Self-reflection and discussion regarding the employee themselves – how do they feel? What is going well? What isn’t?
    • 20 minutes: Others = Feedback and self-assessment regarding their relationships – with you as their leader; with their peers; with their direct reports; other relationships e.g stakeholders.

The timing of 20 minutes for each segment is indicative and obviously can be altered, depending on the conversation and flow. The critical aspect is that all 3 elements are covered during each session.

Without a doubt the biggest challenge for most managers is to conduct a one-on-one at all.

Feedback I receive is that most managers don’t conduct one-on-ones and if they do, they are not that useful because they focus solely on segment 1 – results, KPI’s and tasks. Greater improvement and objectivity is gained when the leader focuses on how the results are achieved. You cannot influence a number or historical result. This information is important to identify insights and trends, leading to potential actions. But, in itself, it offers little direction or future action. Identifying why the results are what they are has purpose and potential for goal establishment.

One-on-ones are a critical aspect of leadership. This time together provides opportunities that do not present themselves to the same depth through casual, ad-hoc discussions. If you are a leader and have read this far, I encourage you to reflect on the progress and effectiveness of your one-on-ones and your team.

It’s a problem to be unaware of this aspect of your role. However, it is negligent to gain awareness and continue to miss the opportunity. As always, it is your call, but your team members will ultimately thank you for meeting your responsibilities and assisting them via facilitating useful, engaging and purposeful one-on-ones.

 

Resources:

(1) State of the Global Workplace 2017: Gallup Global Report

(2) The 1 Factor That Determines How Hard Your Team Works: Blanchard LeadershipChat

(3) Manager’s Guide: How To Start One On One’s With Your Team: Lighthouse

(4) 5 Ways To improve Your One-On_one Meetings: Kevin Eikenberry, Leadership Digital

 

 

 

There is little doubt that being a leader offers many challenges and rewards. Being close to those you lead via proximity and emotionally provides the opportunity to meet the challenges and feel the benefits and rewards. 

Leaders who are present and accessible concentrate on more than simply having an ‘open-door policy’. They build relationships and understand their employees as individual people.

 

As we begin another year, I have found myself reflecting on the past 12 months. There are often trends and themes that emerge when thinking about my clients and the coaching environments I have been exposed to over this period. One of the over-arching themes for last year was the challenge between available time (perception and reality…but that is a different topic for another time) and the willingness/ability to develop effective relationships in the workplace.

Initially, too many of my clients view the connections between themselves and their team members as negotiable or secondary to their ‘real work’. Relationships and connecting with your employees is a cornerstone of leadership. They are actually non-negotiable if you truly want to lead.

 

Being caught up in the ‘doing’ is a major part of the reason why so many of you feel time poor. You must invest to get a return. The decisions and investment made in your employees now has a greater pay off than continuing to do what you have always done…and being frustrated or disappointed in the results.

 

Relationships matter to all of us, both in and out of work. Being a leader is much more than just possessing the skills and attributes. It is also about being present and personable. Connecting with people is a major strength if you wish to influence and much of leadership is based on being influential. Developing a relationship is not the same as a friendship. It is more relevant to be trusted and trusting; honest and vulnerable; self-aware; respected and respectful; and other related attributes.

This does confuse some people. In fact, I have had discussions with a couple of senior leaders over the years who categorically state that it is impossible to maintain close relationships with those you lead. Maybe, but not always. Oversimplifying or generalising misses the points about relationships needing to be individual and personalised.

 

 Amongst many important skills, to lead is to influence and inspire. To do so, you need to know more about your team members than you think. You must connect and understand people to make relationships impactful.

 

To influence and inspire requires a mindset that other’s ideas, opinions and thoughts are at least as important as your own. Understanding people matters. To do this well, you need to know your team member’s as individual people.

 

Read: Trust – The Cornerstone of Relationships and Leadership

 

The many, many challenges that can occur in the workplace and within relationships can be best met and overcome through solid relationships. When you trust the message deliverer you are more likely to actively listen and buy into the point being made. This includes those times when the message is a positive one; a challenging conversation; or of mutual benefit. Of course, the need to develop trust works both ways. Essentially, you need to earn the right to have whatever conversation is required. Without a trusted relationship most conversations feel challenging. They can also be stressful and do more harm than good, exaggerating the lack of trust that exists in the first place.

 

It is difficult to influence from afar. How can you lead and influence people if you are rarely available? If you don’t know each team member personally and are unaware of their motivators, values and similar traits you will miss the mark.

 

Maintaining effective relationships also helps with decision-making, particularly when considering employees for promotion; assessing performance; or, thinking about filling secondment vacancies. Identification of core employees, their strengths and potential is more accurate and effective when you know your people. The benefits of getting this right are many, for all involved.

Nothing here is intended to replace the foundational work of leadership development. Higher levels of engagement, greater entrepreneurialism, and a more inclusive culture are less quantifiable but no less valuable benefits. (2)

Having the foresight to tackle any leadership needs in a proactive way is the first and best step you can take. A recent survey conducted via SmartBrief shows that leadership challenges are the biggest concern for business people when they think about 2018. Spending an appropriate amount of time focusing on developing the next generation of leaders, before they are promoted is a rare strategy. Yet, it remains amongst the top challenges and concerns for business leaders and owners.

CoachStation and Relationships: Leadership & Business Concerns 2018

SmartBrief on Leadership: Biggest Business Concerns for 2018

Searching for the next generation of business leaders represents one of the biggest headaches for any organisation.

 

Most, in our experience, rely on development programs that rotate visible high fliers, emphasising the importance of leadership attributes such as integrity, collaboration, a results-driven orientation and customer-oriented behaviour.

 

Many, understandably, also look outside the organisation to fill key roles despite the costs and potential risks of hiring cultural misfits.

Far fewer, though, scan systematically for the hidden talent that often lurks unnoticed within their own corporate ranks. Sometimes those overlooked leaders remain invisible because of gender, racial, or other biases. Others may have unconventional backgrounds, be reluctant to put themselves forward, or have fallen off (or steered clear of) the standard development path. Regardless of the cause, it’s a wasted opportunity when good leaders are overlooked and it can leave individuals feeling alienated and demotivated. (2)

The relationships that you form with each of your direct reports are central to your ability to fulfil your three core responsibilities as a manager: Create a culture of feedback, build a cohesive team, and achieve results collaboratively. But these relationships do not follow the rules of other relationships in our lives; they require a careful balancing act.

 

You need to care personally, without getting creepily personal or trying to be a “popular leader.”

 

You need to challenge people directly and tell them when their work isn’t good enough, without being a jerk or creating a vicious cycle of discouragement and failure. That’s a hard thing to do.

When you can care personally at the same time that you challenge directly, you’re on the way to successful leadership. The term I use to describe a good manager–direct report relationship, and this ability to care and challenge simultaneously, is radical candor. So what can you do to build radically candid relationships with each of your direct reports? And what are the pitfalls to avoid? (3)

CoachStation & Relationships: 8 Ways to Be a Better Leader

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • More productivity, less place

More leaders have teams who are remote some or all of the time. If you have worries about what people are doing when they aren’t nearby, it is time to let that go.

In most cases, people are more productive when they have fewer of the distractions that naturally occur at work.

Focus on your productivity and supporting the productivity of your team, wherever they may be working.

  • More influence, less power

For far too long too many leaders have tried to play the power card as if it was the only card in their hand. There is an inherent power imbalance between you and those you lead, but there is far more to leadership than just using your power.

Focus your development on being more influential; working on skills and relationships with individuals to create an environment where people choose to follow.

This is related to the last item on this list, and it is too important to overlook!

  • More trust, less micromanagement

You don’t want to be led by a micromanager, and neither does your team. While a lack of trust is far from the only reason leaders micromanage, it is often the biggest perception your team has of this tendency. Work to build your trust in your team members – you will be rewarded in many ways, and likely you will feel less need to micromanage too.

  • More coaching, less “annual performance review”

I have far more to say about the annual performance review than can be shared here, but the fact is that you need to coach more frequently. If your organization requires an annual performance review, it will be far easier and far more effective if you are coaching regularly. When you do that, most of the stress goes out of the performance review; and performance will improve and improve sooner.

  • More intention, less routine

Routine helps us navigate our world, but doesn’t allow us to change. Routine is the worker bee of the status quo.

As a leader, you must expect more of yourself and your team than the simple status quo. This means you must be more intentional about what you want to accomplish and about your behaviors and choices.

Don’t rely solely on routine; re-examine them to make sure they are serving your best interests.

  • More “us”, less “them”

I challenge you to change this in your thinking, and one way to test it is in your words. Read your emails, read your memos. Listen to what you are saying. Speak more inclusively and with more personal pronouns. This shows your ownership and shows your team where they stand in your mind.

  • More listening, less talking

You know this is important and it is pretty simple. Talk less. Engage with your team by listening, not by talking. Ask questions, then be quiet. When you listen, you can learn. When you really listen, you show people you care about their message and them.

  • More commitment, less compliance

You want commitment from your team, right? If so, you need to lead differently, be more intentional and focus on influence. (4)

 

The question remains: how can you genuinely identify the next group of leaders for your business if you don’t have relationships with them, or those they report to?

 

Personality based decision-making and biased judgment continues to be a major point of failure for many organisations. Additionally, promoting team members based on the fact that they excel in their existing role is often fraught with risk also. But, organisation’s make this same mistake every day.

The importance of relationships cannot be overstated. In our personal and professional lives most of us want to feel connected to people we care about and the things that we do. Our observations working with many organisations and coaching hundreds of people in recent years has highlighted the importance of trusted relationships. So, consider in your team and organisation, how well do you meet this need?

 

Resources:

(1) SmartBrief on Leadership

(2) McKinsey: Finding Hidden Leaders

(3) Harvard Business Review

(4) Leadership Digital: Kevin Eikenberry

Trust is the key to meaningful leadership, relationships and influence.

Most of us know this, but how do we develop trust in the workplace and at home?

CoachStation: Trust, Leadership and Influence

Source: pmtips.com

It is fascinating to see people grow and develop. Like many in my industry, I do what I do because of a deep need to contribute and make a difference when coaching and mentoring. This continues to hold me in good stead as a coach, mentor and consultant. However, developing trusted relationships was also a core belief when I was leading people directly. Now, my goal is to help others learn why and how to apply these skills and attributes to influence and lead their team members.

One of my favourite and most effective tools relates to helping my clients understand their personal values. The process of prioritising an extensive set of value statements and words down to 20 primary and ultimately, 7 core values is always interesting.

A continuing trend is that trust forms a part of the vast majority of people’s primary values.

Based on many other personal and professional conversations, I am confident this is a consistent need for most people. Elements of trust that are identified throughout these discussions show that most people can feel whether trust exists. Fewer can explain specifically how it is built or established. At the end of my Personal Values workshops or coaching process, I ask participants to reflect and act upon several questions. One of the most important is:

How well do you establish and maintain a culture where most people get to fulfil this need most of the time? This is important if trust is so inherently important to so many people, including members of your own team. 

I also ask that they reflect on all core values in a similar way. How regularly and effectively are your core values being met at work and at home? The answers to these questions can provide great insight into why things ‘feel’ as they do…both good and bad, positive and negative. Critically, it is what you do with this new learning that matters. However, trust is strengthened or weakened readily depending on your behaviours and demonstrated actions. What you do, what you say and how you say it has a bearing on how well you connect with people.

Connections with purpose and meaning build trust.

  1. Do What You Say You Will Do: This is the ultimate way to gain people’s trust. It means following through with what you say you will do.
  2. Trust & Nurture To Develop: To gain trust we need to trust others. It is a two-way street. We need to be patient and give them the time to grow and develop instead of forcing the issue.
  3. Do The Right Thing: Regardless of whether or not anyone is watching you, integrity cannot be compromised. It takes many years to establish your credibility, but it only takes a few minutes to ruin it.
  4. Care For Your People: Before we ask our people to do something for us, we must appeal to them and touch their heart.
  5. Serve Your People: When we serve our people, we ensure that their interest is taken into consideration. By doing so, we don’t focus on who gets the credit. Our focus shifts to getting the job done. (1)

When employees are not having their core needs and values met, they may look elsewhere.

A powerful way to establish trust is to employ one of the mind’s most basic mechanisms for determining loyalty: the perception of similarity. If you can make someone feel a link with you, his empathy for and willingness to cooperate with you will increase. (3) It is much easier to do this when you have a natural affiliation with someone. It may be a shared history; aligned values; similar belief systems, or other form of alignment. This link is key, but don’t think it can be easily faked.

People can see and feel any superficiality a mile off. Even if they can’t explain it.

Sometimes this is described as ‘just not feeling right’. When their is alignment is it often stated that it ‘simply feels like a strong connection’. This cannot always be easily explained or articulated. Yet, the feelings we have about others is powerful and drives many of our decisions, particularly surrounding our relationships.

First, leaders that place people ahead of profit (which leads to more profit, imagine that!) will work hard to promote trust. That means that they create an environment where risks are taken, where employees feel safe and motivated to exercise their creativity, communicate ideas openly, and provide input to major decisions without reprimand. Because there is trust there. But trust is a two-way street. So leaders trust and believe in the people that they lead as well. And when you value people by trusting them, you treat others with dignity and respect.

But trust in this social economy remains a baffling stigma. In 2014, the American Psychological Association published the findings on their Work and Well-Being Survey.

Nearly 1 in 4 workers say they don’t trust their employer and only about half believe their employer is open and upfront with them. 

While almost two-thirds (64 percent) of employed adults feel their organization treats them fairly, 1 in 3 reported that their employer is not always honest and truthful with them. But the great news is that workers who feel valued by their employer are more likely to be engaged in their work. In the survey results, employees were significantly more likely to report having high levels of energy, being strongly involved in their work, and just plain happy about what they do. Ninety-one percent were likely to say they are motivated to do their best (versus 37 percent who do not feel valued) and 85 percent were likely to recommend their employer to others (versus 15 percent of those who do not feel valued). (4)

It’s clear that a culture that feels valued, that promotes openness, honesty, transparency and trust are key to high-performance. 

When considered as a sum of its parts, the Trust Equation (highlighted below) has much merit. I like the idea that the model highlights the four elements of who we are: words; actions; emotions; and, caring. Once understood there is greater potential to apply these elements and establish greater levels of trust in practice. Check yourself against the four criteria and see where you might be able to strengthen your trust-building skills.

CoachStation: Building Trust in Leadership

Source: Building Trust – Kristin Anderson. 2015

Research conducted by The Ken Blanchard Companies using its Employee Work Passion Assessment has found significant correlation between positive work intentions and a leader’s ability to build trust, use coaching behaviors, and create an engaging work environment. This environment includes high levels of Meaningful Work, Autonomy, Growth, Fairness, Collaboration, and Feedback, along with six other factors. (2)

I see trust being taken for granted in many workplaces. As with any relational aspect, it takes effort to develop trust.

I regularly state to my clients, “whether you like someone you lead is not the point”. As a leader you have little choice in making it all about who you like or dislike. In your leadership role you are obligated to influence, develop and assist your team members. In fact, one of the most rewarding aspects of leadership is seeing improvement and growth in those who initially you may not have affiliated naturally with. Trust is built on many things. Moving beyond likeability to deeper traits such as respect and honesty influence trust more than simply being liked.

The Inc article highlighted in this blog makes several great points about engagement and trust. It is worth reading in full. I particularly appreciate the final paragraph which summarises the essence of valuing employees and building trust, described as the ‘most counter-intuitive part’.

More studies are coming out saying that if you trust and believe in your people first, and in return they reciprocate by believing in you as a leader, they will give their best work.

In other words, although conventional thinking says that people have to earn trust first, in healthy organizations, leaders who put high emphasis on meeting employees’ needs are willing to give trust to them first, and they give it as a gift even before it’s earned. Now that’s valuing people. (4)

As highlighted earlier, the question really is a simple one. Does the environment and culture you are building as a leader foster and develop trust in others and to be trusted yourself?

Take on the challenge of reviewing where trust sits for you. Reflecting on this is one great way to understand yourself and your team members better. It will also be a meaningful way to develop a deeper sense of trust and relationships in practice.

 

Resources:

  1. Will Lukang – Leadership Digital
  2. David Witt – Blanchard LeaderChat
  3. David Desteno – Harvard Business Review
  4. Marcel Schwantes – Inc.