Without having your people with you, in full rapport with you, it is likely to be an uphill struggle for you to lead a team effectively. And to be at that level of relationship with them, you have to work towards their trust steadily, consistently.
There are a number of tactics that you can adopt in order to make the most of working with your people and one of the best if by getting to know them really well. By spending time with them and understanding them better.
One of the best ways to get to know your people is to make sure that you get into regular and light conversations with them. It’s all about having the ability to talk and listen to almost anything they might have to say, with an emphasis on what turns them on, and less on you.
This can be quite a challenge, as many managers are brilliant at doing all the talking; dealing with their agendas; yet less capable at getting to their people’s own interests. Bear in mind that employees live most of their lives away from their place of work, and usually they have far less fun with you than they do with their friends and family!
So by letting them tell you about what’s important to them, rather than boring old work all the time, you will develop relationships much better and much more quickly if you listen to who they are, rather than focus on business all the time.
As they speak with you, listen for clues of topics you can open up with them. Look for when they get passionate about something and ask more about that. Subtly using open questions to find out more, such as Who, Why, Where, When, How and What, enables them to get into their flow, which is a great place for them to be – and they love it that you are interested in them, for them and not just the business.
If people go on way too long about the big interest in their lives, you will develop skills that will help you gently cut short those stories and move you on.
Being able to have such engaging conversations will help you introduce business issues much more easily and your people will have a level of trust in the caring, understanding and interested person you have become than they ever did before.
In Dale Carnegie’s great book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, he relates a story of a 2-hour dinner he attended. He listened to the man sitting next to him and said no more than half a dozen things all evening.
Yet three weeks later a mutual friend told him how engrossed his dinner partner had been and how she found him such an interesting man. Indeed the time he listened, he created such rapport that he was the interesting one.
It is a great skill to develop!
When trying to ask questions, try other ways, like, “Say more about that“, “Tell me more“, instead of, or as well as the open questions above. Whatever suits you best!