As a leader in your organization, you have many relationships to manage. In addition, you no doubt have other relationships – both personal and professional – that are important to your success and well-being. When you are busy and pulled in many directions, you may be tempted to rely on communicating en masse – such as meetings, group emails, and dinner conversation with your family and friends. Such exchanges can be valuable and efficient in building esprit de corps, but might fall short in developing meaningful individual relationships. For quality relationships, one-on-one interaction is required. And, clearly, if demands on your time and attention are many, you will struggle to connect with everyone you should.
So what should you do?
First, recognize that your colleagues and your family are individuals, not merely small parts of a larger whole. As such, each has a distinctive vantage point and views that can best be discovered one-on-one. In group settings, people – especially introverts – can be reluctant to speak up. Even if invited directly, they may not disclose what is really on their minds. In fact, if pressured, the true introverts may withdraw even further. Consequently, such meetings can be dominated by those who are eager to take the floor and be heard.
Second, take pains to seek out each member separately. Without an audience, the quieter ones will likely be more inclined to share their thoughts with you. On occasion, offer each person the gift of your undivided attention.
Third, ask open-ended questions. What are they excited about? What are they worried about? What ideas do they have to make life better here? What can they tell you that you need to know? Where do they need your help?
Finally, monitor your tone of voice and body language so that your questions sound like genuine inquiries rather than an interrogation. Even if your time is limited, slow your pace enough to listen and have a real conversation.
Someone (I regret I don’t know who) once said that the quality of a relationship between two people is governed by the most recent three conversations. Reflect on those conversations and ask yourself where you can do better.
Linda Clark-Santos, Ph.D., has extensive leadership experience in both the public and private sectors. LCSBUSINESSINSIDER@GMAIL.COM.