Getting to Know Your Team

How well do you know your team? When was the last time you talked to – or even better, listened to – your team members?  This can be challenging in a busy work environment, especially if your employees work remotely or on several different shifts.

Despite these challenges, it’s worth the effort.

According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, along with research provided by Gallup, healthy communication is the basis of any successful relationship, this includes the employee and manager relationship. Gallup found that consistent, positive, and open communication – whether it occurs in person, over the phone, or electronically – is connected to a higher level of employee engagement. Managers who hold regular team or 1-1 meetings with their employees are almost three times more likely to foster engaged employees than those who don’t.

Would holding a meeting with your employees cause them to suspect an underlying agenda?  Tell them you’ll be scheduling an informal check-in to help you get a better sense of how people are doing, gain insight into what is working within the workgroup and listen to ideas for improvement. Communicating with your team in advance to inform them of the agenda may help decrease any speculation on their part.

Here are five topics you can discuss with your employees:

1. Work environment: Begin where your communication memo left off. Ask, “What’s working, what could be improved, and how can we improve it?” Don’t set false expectations of what you can and cannot do. Be sure to find roles that employees can also play to improve the work experience. Remember, an important part of employee engagement includes opportunities for individuals to contribute to the success of the workgroup.

2. Communication: Discuss each person’s communication preferences, such as email or face-to-face, written updates or regular meetings. Share your preferred style and see where compromise can be made.

3. The Team: Ask what is working well within the team and what could be better. Listen to suggestions for improvement. If an issue arises involving another colleague, consider coaching one or both employees. Asking about the team dynamics may be the only way you will become aware of an issue.

4. Workplace Flexibility: Explore flexible work options with employees. You may have an employee who would function better working at home one day a week or alternating start and stop times. Be mindful about the feasibility of altering a schedule without negatively impacting the work of other colleagues on the team.

5. Work Skills: Openly ask questions about individuals’ skills that aren’t required in their current roles. Experience gained in prior positions may prove to be a valuable asset for future career opportunities. Spend time assessing the breadth, depth and versatility of individuals. They will appreciate it.

Most managers are “working managers” with full plates.  This is another reason to take the time to get to know the skills, capabilities, and interests of each employee.  The more you can tap into the individual employee’s potential the more you will enhance their engagement and performance – and as a result, improve the team.

If you are having difficulty with any aspect of people management, the EAP may be a great resource for you.  Give us a call. We are experienced, confidential and free to use.

Check out Kathy Greer’s Survival Guide for Managers blog.