This is the second post in a series capturing practices to establish one’s self as a new leader.

The Connector

Have you ever felt like just another nameless face in an organisation? Chances are, we’ve all felt ‘invisible’ in the workplace at some time or another. As a leader, it’s incumbent upon you to ensure that you intentionally aim to reduce the occurrence of this. This is where you get personal. Remember the saying: people don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care.

In organisations there are some who don’t want to be seen, instead choosing never to stick their heads above the parapet. They go into mole mode; burying themselves as far under the earth as possible. You know the type. Usually sits at the back in team meetings. When asked their opinion they respond with phrases like ‘I just want a quiet life’ or ‘I’m never one to rock the boat.’ However, I don’t think this is true of most. Many are searching for deep meaning, value and recognition in their work. For many, work isn’t just a means to an end. As a leader coming into an organisation, you must find the people who are seeking to make meaningful contributions.

I recall my first month in my current senior leader role. I made it a priority to have 1-1 meetings with all teaching staff. Simply through asking the right questions and hearing about their passions and unique perspectives I was able to see how people like John, a passionate South African educator, could be a great professional coach or how Kayleigh, a young, bright new teacher, was brimming with practical ideas for implementation which she could share with others who might not have such rich creative thinking. Liz Wiseman call this the multiplier approach. In her book ‘Multipliers: How the best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter’, she details how multipliers connect with people to get team members to do their best thinking and achieve things they never thought possible.

Here are several reasons why it’s important to establish personal/professional connections with team members.

1- Part of a leader’s job is to identify where people can best serve the organisation. Consider yourself as the head coach of a sport’s team. You need to deploy the right people into the right positions. Although observing them within their role is a great way to do this, this takes significant time. Meeting with them and posing the right questions can serve as a way to identify strengths and weaknesses.

2- Building on the first point, as you find out the weaknesses of people in your team, you can begin to consider the right training options for them and make an assessment of whether you think they will be right for the type of organisation you are trying to grow and build.

3- Have personal meetings with your direct reports. This is an intentional first step in building a culture of trust. Trust is often overlooked as a cultural asset but the most effective organisations have high trust cultures. Organisations with high levels of trust take more risks and increase innovation, openly admit failure and learn from it as well as admit weaknesses. If you meet with team members, they are more likely to see your decision as a sign that you care about them. Don’t fake your concern. People will see through this so don’t insult their intelligence. Genuinely show an interest.

So how can I do it?

You’re probably thinking that this is going to take a great deal of time to organise and schedule. You’re right. You can’t short cut meaningful relationships, but there are ways to speed up the logistics. If you have a PA, give them access to manage your diary and have them book the meetings for you. If you don’t have one, use apps like Google Calendar where you can share your diary with colleagues and have them book a time when you are free. An added advantage of this is that you can identify who is keen to meet you and, conversely with whom you might need to do a little more work.

When you have your 1-1 meetings, make them as private as possible. You can meet over coffee, in a private office or over lunch. The choice is yours, depending on your style and personal constraints. Just ensure that you won’t be distracted by other co-workers. You need to be attentive and engaged and clearly show that they have your undivided attention for the next 20 minutes or so. The quality of the interaction is crucial. After such meetings, you can then begin to meet with entire teams. You’ll find yourself invigorated by the intensity of debate and rigorous thinking.

Finally, remember that you as a leader are the orchestrator, the conductor. Not in a grandiose it’s all about me-look guys! kind of wayThis simply means you will require all of your ‘players’ to be in tune and working with you. Draw people in. Don’t be a leader of a nameless, faceless, homogeneous mass. As Wiseman would say, don’t be a diminisher.

Go and book your 1-1!

If you’d like a free guide on delivering a 1-1, please email me directly.