As a new leader, one of my biggest mistakes was being more focused on delivering results than on building relationships with my new team.
It took me far too long to realize that my job had changed! As an individual contributor, I loved being the hero that was capable of delivering most anything my leader threw at me!
Write new curriculum from scratch? Sure!
Create a presentation for you to deliver to the board of directors? Okay!
Put on an event for the entire corporate office to attend? I got this!
Once I was promoted to leading a team, my job shifted from tactical to strategic. Instead of personally delivering results and deliverables, I had to deliver them through others. Too bad I didn’t realize that and tried to continue doing it all AND lead a team.
Here’s the embarrassing part. I really didn’t WANT to develop relationships. I was pretty happy being the workhorse hero and tried to keep it that way. Can you relate?
For someone like me, who’s felt more than a little socially awkward at various times in her life, focusing on the actual work is easier! Get in, get the job done, and go home was my philosophy. It worked for me for a long time… until it didn’t. (That was a bad day. I’ll save that story for later.)
This article is for everyone out there who’s reading this and secretly thinking, “That’s me!”
If you’ve been more focused on the results than the relationships, now’s a good time to begin anew, especially if you lead a team. But where do you start?
It’s actually easier than it appears. Start with getting to know your team members, especially their wants and needs. Do it by simply asking questions.
The types of questions you ask will revolve around their ambitions, their professional and personal goals, how they like to receive different kinds of communication, and what they observe at work.
Let’s start with three questions to find out the basics.
What’s the best way for me to show appreciation for all that you do?
Numerous studies show that today’s workforce wants recognition and they want it often. The best way to show appreciation depends on the receiver.
In general, people like to receive appreciation in a way that is meaningful to them.
When it comes to voicing appreciation, some people may want a high five while others may want a thank you note. Some want you to throw a public parade while others would rather you pull them aside and privately thank them.
If you’re giving a gift or the like, some might prefer a plaque to display while others just want an extra half-day off.
Ask this question to find out what they prefer in the future from you, and then be sure to use that information when you want to show appreciation.
When I need to give you feedback for improvement, what’s the best way to do it?
The way people interpret feedback varies from person to person. Some people want to receive it face-to-face and others would rather have it written. The same goes for the frequency of feedback – some prefer to receive it daily, while others prefer it on a less frequent basis.
Knowing your team and what they prefer will help you communicate more effectively. It will also help you provide them with the feedback they desire.
In general , the best way to give someone constructive feedback is by being specific about what they need to improve, the impact it made, and what could be done better in the future. When possible, give specific examples. Avoid general statements that can’t be put into action or vague guidelines for improvement, which don’t provide much insight for the receiver of the message. Remember. If you’re not clear, they can’t correct!
Knowing the person’s feedback preferences up front will also help you be timely in delivering constructive feedback. As a leadership skills speaker, I find that too many leaders avoid giving feedback out of fear. They hope things will get better on their own, but that rarely ever happens. Many are scared of making things worse. When you take the time to properly give feedback, this too rarely happens.
Side note: Remember to give reinforcement feedback too! People need to hear when they’re doing something right. Be specific about what they did well, let them know the positive impact it had, and ask them to continue doing it in the future.
Acknowledge when they achieve a milestone in their career and celebrate with them, but also celebrate the small wins. People want to feel seen and heard every day, not just on their work anniversary or when they complete a major project.
Where do you want to go in your career? How can I help you get there?
Have you ever had a leader who believed in you and your ability to move up? Didn’t that feel good?
You can do the same for you team. Ask questions about what they want to accomplish in their career, what they want to do, and how you can help them get there.
Be their champion and inform them of opportunities within the company to help them achieve their goals.
Ask this question to find out where they want to go so you can help them get there. Use the information you gathered to plan employee development, what you can delegate to help them learn new skills, etc.
Becoming a great leader is not an easy task. It takes time, patience and an understanding of the people you are leading. Great leaders focus on building relationships with their team, not just results, in order to get the best out of their employees.
Some companies know that great leaders are made, not born, and created leadership programs to help new managers learn these skills before they start leading teams.
Others hope and pray their best individual contributors will figure it out when the time comes. (Spoiler alert. That rarely works.)
If you work for the latter, know that you’re not alone and there’s hope. Start with the basics of recognizing that your job has changed, and then start building relationships with your team, peers, and leaders. You can build from there!
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