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Invest Time In Your People

by Ken Blanchard

Don’t avoid or ignore the people aspect of work. Keeping to yourself and focusing only on your work will limit your ability to grow within the organization.

I’ve often said that the best minute of the day is the one you invest in your people. Why do I believe that? Because leaders who invest time in their people are building important, meaningful relationships. And it’s through relationships that shared goals are accomplished and visions are achieved.

Why are some managers so bad at relationships?


Many leaders still believe a manager’s job is to assign work, tell people what to do and reprimand them when they don’t perform. But that’s not leadership, and it’s not how to bring out the best in others. These misguided leaders are not necessarily bad people, they simply do not understand that leadership is a partnership. Relationship building is generally not taught in schools, and it’s rarely taught to those who join the managerial ranks.

Another reason many leaders make poor managers is that they were tapped for a leadership position because of their strong individual skills and knowledge. Their prior experience of being “the smartest person in the room” does not teach them how to connect with others and draw out their best.

Some managers know how to build relationships — but only with the people they perceive to be important in the hierarchy. They don’t put nearly as much energy into those they view as low on the totem pole. Our company had a coaching client like this once. He got along well with his peers and superiors, but his direct reports resented, feared and genuinely disliked him. This limited his effectiveness in the organization.

Build relationships with one-on-one meetings


Especially now — when so many people are working virtually — it’s important for managers to be intentional about setting up regular, one-on-one meetings with their direct reports. The emphasis here is on giving each direct report personal time and attention. There’s more to working together than exchanging emails and digital information!

These 15- to 30-minute meetings should occur once a week or once every two weeks, minimum. While you, as the manager, should schedule the meetings, your direct report should set the agenda.

One-on-one conversations are a powerful way for you to demonstrate that you care about your direct reports. When you take time out of your schedule to meet with people individually, you are demonstrating that their work is important and that you value them as partners.

How to conduct a good one-on-one


The first rule of an effective one-on-one meeting is to focus on your direct report, not on yourself. Make sure you’re having a two-way conversation and that your direct report is not just politely listening to a monologue from you. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you know what is important to your direct report? Do you know what they are really after and what their priorities are? If you don’t, that’s a knowledge gap you need to address.
  • Do you know anything personal about your direct report? Do they have children? What’s happening with their family? What do they like to do outside of work? Get to know the complete person. The more you know about them, the better you’ll be able to help them achieve their goals.
  • Are you actively listening in your conversations? Often, we focus so much on what we want to say next that we forget to really listen. Watch out for poor conversational habits like not paying attention to what your direct report is saying, not staying focused on the topic at hand, and not looking for common ground and mutual understanding.

Your people want to connect with you

Don’t be shy about setting up one-on-one meetings with your direct reports. Our research has found that people want to feel more connected to their managers. An overwhelming majority — 89 percent — said they would prefer to meet with their direct supervisor on at least a monthly basis, and 44 percent of the people polled indicated they wanted to meet at least once per week.

One-on-one meetings are not only good for you and your direct report, they are also good for the organization. Our research found a positive relationship between manager-direct report communication and employee intentions to stay with the company.

Relationships hold the key to success


A major telecommunications company once commissioned some research to find out which attributes best predicted long-term leadership success. Why did some leaders succeed while others never really lived up to expectations? After examining a variety of factors — including tenacity, intelligence, work ethic, ingenuity, etc.— they discovered that the ability to build and leverage a network of relationships was the best predictor of long-term leadership success.

Don’t avoid or ignore the people aspect of work. Keeping to yourself and focusing only on your work will limit your ability to grow within the organization. The people who are promoted into higher leadership positions are those who inspire trust and demonstrate a true understanding of others’ concerns and aspirations.

So, schedule those one-on-one meetings and take time to build meaningful connections. It’s the best career investment you’ll ever make.

From chieflearningofficer.com

About Author

Dr. Ken Blanchard is the cofounder and Chief Spiritual Officer of Blanchard®, an international management training and consulting firm. Ken is the coauthor of The One Minute Manager, as well as 65 other books with combined sales totaling more than 21 million copies.

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