Exceptional managers guide and support their team wherever they are. They have a ‘coaching mindset’ aimed, laser-like, at helping people to feel included. This means helping people to feel heard and valued. However, this depends on building deep and genuine connections.
“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou
Start with trust
Research confirms that many employees see their boss as the worst part of the job. Of course this might be true, or it could be they’re just commenting on the quality of the relationship. Likely, their manager hasn’t really gained their trust, hasn’t created a safe space for talking about the difficult and emotional parts of the job (yes, work does make folk emotional!), or just isn’t very skilled at having a two-way conversation.
So if you’re the boss, how do you build trust? In particular, if you need to do this remotely, how do you deal with the subtle business of building the right sort of relationship at a distance?
The first thing to realise is whilst you may want to talk about targets, goals, and progress, there’s little point in doing this until you’ve shown that you truly value the individual. And this needs to be a ‘real’ and felt thing: if people feel you don’t care they will not do their best work. Likewise if they are anxious and disengaged --- and this year there are many reasons why this might be true -- focusing on business, and nothing else, isn’t going to cut it.
Give it time
Literally, give it time. Whether you’re trying to build a face-to-face relationship, or something of a more virtual nature, you’re going to have to schedule regular check-ins. That’s because one of the most valuable things you can do is to provide consistent contact. You need to be there! Also, be very wary of canceling check-ins, or even worse, repeatedly canceling check-ins. This sends the message that you’re not interested: that person isn’t at the top of your list.
The other critical element of the time equation is that for remote conversations you need to allow more time. Yes, that’s right, remote sessions -- especially when you’re supporting your staff -- will occupy more of your time. Why? You’re in the trust-building business: you need to listen, to check understanding, and to fully hear people out; let alone bring the person up-to-date on anything they have missed at work, and directly discuss personal work matters. This takes time.
If you’re lucky enough to have attended a coaching course you’ll know some of the ways in which you can be a responsive and trusted manager. However, if this is all new, here are four things you can do to set the tone for an inclusive conversation:
- Stay locked-on. This is about staying present. You need to stop yourself from being distracted by other people, your cell phone, email, Whatsapp, Slack, or whatever else is demanding your attention. The person in front of you, even if they are on a screen, deserves your undivided and sincere attention.
- Manage emotions. People need to be able to express emotions, to be upset, to vent, to laugh, and to cry. You should facilitate this by creating a safe and confidential space. Try not to judge or comment, and give time for the person to think. This means allowing for silence. Don’t be tempted to fill it: the floor is theirs, not yours.
- Listen. When you pay attention to someone you signal that you value their thoughts. However, listening -- without interrupting -- is a skill. Most people don’t listen, they’re just pausing before saying something themselves. It’s important to stop doing this and to actively concentrate on what the other person is saying.
- Check what you’ve heard. If you’ve been listening you should be able to properly process what has been said, to reflect on it, and to replay (paraphrase) it. This is an important step because it reinforces the fact that you’ve been paying attention! It’s also a way of checking understanding and moving on.
Of these four things, listening is the magic bullet. The more you listen the more you will learn, and the more the person will trust you. The more open they are with you the better able you will be to coach, to help, to support, and to shield them from unnecessary stress. It sounds simple, but it takes practice.
Traitify builds tools that help you explore working relationships. If you would like to know more, connect with Traitify.