Dan Baker, a Texas-based Transportation consultant, once said, “To your people, you are [YOUR COMPANY]. When they think of [YOUR COMPANY], all they can think of is you.” This may be a little bit of an overstatement, but there is a lot of truth here!
When they go home to their family, spouse, kids or whomever, how they feel about [YOUR COMPANY] depends large part on how they feel about you and the environment that you have created based on the praise or the lack of praise you have given, the comments or side comments made or even not made, your communicated expectations, and even your body language or mood that you may be unconscious about!
Think about it. When your boss praises you, it’s different than when your peer praises you. It feels good, right? It’s similar to the father-son relationship. When a parent spends time with a child, it means much more to the child than to the parent. Same thing is true to your people. It is more valuable and meaningful to the associate or employee. In their minds, you are [YOUR COMPANY].
Our employees value you (supervisors and leaders) knowing them on an individual basis. You don’t look at them as a means to the end, that they are just a number, just someone who does office work, dock work, shop work, or any kind of work. But they won’t feel this way unless you get to know them.
How do you do that? I am not sure! It will be different for each of you, but let’s look at a few ideas.
You have get to know them by spending time with them. You have get to know them, but you can’t get to know them without spending time with them. “Love is spelled T-I-M-E.” You cannot love people unless you know them, and you cannot know them unless you spent time with them. Jeff Herbert wrote,
The better you know the people on your shift as individuals the more effectively you’ll be able to motivate them. For example, the confident competent man may need only the briefest instructions on a complicated job. A self-doubting but equally competent man wants and needs a detailed explanation as well as a closer checking on your part. A small reprimand may be more than enough to set a highly sensitive worker straight. While a stern-straight-from-the-shoulder put down may be necessary for a thick-skinned obstinate type. A mild complaint from the quiet conscientious employee merits your consideration more or equally than a loud squawk from a chronic belly-acher.
Check out this video called, “Love is spelled T-I-M-E.”
We must invest time in our people. You’ve heard it said before, “Quality time is better than quantity.” This is true, except how can you have quality time without some quantity of time.
We must take an initiative with our people whether this means purposefully planning time with people, allowing for spontaneous moments and conversations, or simply taking them out to dinner. It will differ from person to person.
Do you know what your natural tendency is? It is quite natural to gravitate to those with similar interests and hobbies, but do you spend time with people that are unlike you?
How else can we get to know them? Be a student of your employees, your peers, and even your manager. Seek to learn all you can about them: their likes, their dislikes, their pet peeves, family, hobbies, outside interests, etc. Ask them lots of questions, even if you think you know the answer (get their opinion, but not to debate, unless you know they like that). Let them talk about what they know…everyone loves to talk about what we know. Once you begin to learn, don’t stop. Let your knowledge of them grow and grow and watch your relationship grow.
There are 5 things that every leader should know about their people:
- Their background: Most people like to tell their own story – where they were born, when’s their birthday (write this one your calendar!), how they grew up, what their parents did, etc. Take an interest in their backgrounds – not only is it respectful, but you might learn something useful in terms of managing them.
- Their hobbies and interests: What do they like to do when they’re not working? Knowing what gives them joy outside of work helps you relate to them more effectively. You might be able to draw a connection from a work project back to something they care deeply about in their personal lives. Again, take an interest in their lives outside of work.
- Their loved ones & important people in their lives: Find out who that is, and learn their name(s). And by all means, if your directs have children, learn their names (yes, all of them – you can do it). And remember them and use them.
- Their passion(s): What really moves your people? Some people are really into sports, or politics, or volunteering in their communities. I just met a woman the other day who runs her own non-profit organization – and I wonder how many of her co-workers really know about it. You can learn a lot about people if you know what really turns them on.
- Their goals, dreams and aspirations: There are countless insights here – including whether you can help them make their dreams come true. What if you learned that someone always wanted to live abroad – and you had the ability to make that happen with a transfer or job rotation?
So, how do you get to know your people? What are some ways that you could be spending time with your people?
- Work alongside of them. If you work outdoors, on a dock, in a shop or whatever, as much as you can, don’t do “dock” work alone. Always work with someone.
- Tackle a project together letting them take the lead. This will be very difficult for an insecure leader
- Walk around the office, the shop, the dock, or whatever your work area may be and speak to everyone. Say HELLO to everyone and ask them at least one question about their life. As leaders, we walk the operational floor, whether in retail, manufacturing, or logistics for various work-related reasons like productivity, supervision, quality, etc. However, walk the work area just to say, “Hi.” Don’t speak about work. If you must, like a safety violation or some glaring issue or problem that cannot wait, then be sure to come back to that employee later to just speak with them about them about life. However, if it is a minor issue, ignore it and follow up on it later (so as not to condone it).Take groups of employees (no more than 5 at a time) to lunch. But when you do this make sure you communicate ahead of time that you plan to take them all over a set period of time. Be sure to set the time period and make sure you follow through, even at your own expense if necessary!
- Have social gatherings. But be careful here! What you may believe to be a fun social gathering may not be fun for everyone else. Many office social gatherings center on golf; however, not everyone golfs. A safe social office event is a potluck meal. This way everyone is guaranteed to have something they like.
- Invite your employees over for dinner. Meet their family or people that are important to them. But be sure to invite everyone otherwise it will appear to show favoritism.
- Join a social network like MySpace, facebook, hi5, bebo, twitter, etc. There are many out there, and people will gladly tell you where they are. You just need to ask. For example, “Which do you like better, myspace or facebook?” This will usually lead to which one they are on and why. But be sure not just to join but also participate. Throw snowballs, tag people, do polls or mob wars. You will be amazed at what you learn about people and their friends.
- Do a TAKE 5. This is where you take a person out of the operation for 5 minutes and talk with them like a corrective action, without the corrective action. Be sure to have one or two questions ready. This will do two things for you: (1.) Take away the ominous feeling of being called to the boss’s office (it’s not always a bad thing to be called to his office) and (2.) You get to know your people.
Finally, remember the stuff they tell you. Do whatever it takes for you to remember it. Write it down in their file, in your smartphone or Blackberry. Review it daily, weekly or monthly. If you pray, pray for them consistently. Whatever, but be ready to engage the employee again about that information the next time you see them.