My staff gets together every two weeks. We are a virtual team and the very first agenda item is to “check-in.” The goal is for us to build interpersonal relationships that are mutually satisfying and gives us some idea of what to anchor our empathic caring on. Business is tough. Time is both precious and expensive. People are more precious and valuable.
If we are not doing something to connect with one another and intentionally build the relationships in our organization then it is too easy to make the urgent task or agenda item priority over the people in the room.
Daniel Goldman, the author of the New York Times best-selling book Emotional Intelligence and Primal Leadership says, “When it comes to technical skills and core competencies, the ability to perform depends on the relationships of the people involved.”
My team meets virtually every two weeks at 10 am on Fridays for an hour. When I see that meeting on my calendar my knee jerk reaction is to write down what I need from each of them. Because of our schedules, primarily my travel, we just do not get to spend enough time together, so I crave the information from the projects they are working on.
Even though I am a natural connector and love to interact personally, I have to intentionally take my to-do list for each person and set it aside, and instead start the meeting by saying, “so who would like to check-in first?"
Sometimes this takes 25 to 30% of our meeting time
Frankly, it's the best part of the meeting! I believe we are more effective in the remaining 70% of the meeting because we take the time to connect in the first 20 minutes.
I enjoy our weekly check-ins because not only do they bring us closer together as a team, but it also shows me a little more of the big pictures of each of their lives, and how our realities fit together. This is key because so much of our planning and strategy begin as abstract, so hearing about the actualization of our plans is a good indicator of how the plan is playing out.
Hearing about how implementing our plans affect my team members’ larger stories shows me not only how well our plans are working out, but how our plans are contributing to the health of our team.
If someone on your team is struggling why not do a gut-check on how well you are connecting with them and see if this has any link to their performance? This connection is not a nosey way to gauge their work progress, but a way to hear about their lives and worlds.
I invest in my team by sharing my own big-picture reality with them as often as possible. I tell them not only my business-related dreams and goals but about how those fit into my personal life. The reality I shared with the team this week is that I am busy, and not the brain-work, creative kind of busy. I'm so busy that there are days my staff sees my calendar and can't find half an hour that isn't full of activity. I'm not complaining, I love my work, but it is key for me to balance working with clients and investing in my team. It's worthwhile to prioritize both because they work together, not against each other. The more I invest in my team, the more we are able to fill in each other's gaps to smooth out the process, minimizing everyone's stress. By sharing my reality with them they are able not only to see their role in my business more clearly, but engage with my vision, and add their own.
Our check-ins are not left at the meeting table (virtual table in our case) after our meetings. We write them in the minutes, and we follow-up. Sometimes following up just means asking for an update from someone about whatever we know is going on in their life, but sometimes we get to really engage. In the past six months, we’ve been able to follow along as two of our team members took service trips abroad, and not just compartmentalize our roles in their lives to work-life. Instead, we were able to cheerlead for their adventures because we knew how amazing their service has been to us, and how much joy their service would bring to those they went to serve abroad.
Additionally, sometimes our follow-ups require change, and that’s key to maintaining and growing our synergy. Giving my check-ins the past few months, it became clear that although my team is a very organized group, we needed to change how we handle my busy schedule. Check-ins were key here because if I were not in the habit of them, I would not think to ask for help in this area because I am used to it. Instead, I shared my reality often, and my team responded. Now, we have an amazing new calendar system that synergizes us better and streamlines my schedule.
WHAT IF I'M NOT A SHARER, SCOTT?
As leaders, sharing pieces of ourselves and asking our followers to do the same may feel vulnerable, and it is. Yet, this is something so valuable to not only create a positive environment, but also help our team develop together a larger picture of reality: the state of ourselves, each other, and our work. This week, try to think of one thing about your life that your followers may not know about you and share how it impacts your life and work. When we make time to share and do it repeatedly we can use it for growth that can better the synergy, output, and wellbeing of our teams.