Getting to know your employees

I met with a manager who identified that knowing employees on a personal level is an important component of building a strong team.  As a result, the manager committed to weekly 1:1 conversations.  That commitment alone is a signal to the employee that this manager really wants to know his employees better.

However, upon pushing deeper to role play these conversations, it became obvious why the manager thought this personal relationship was important.  What the manager wanted to know about was useful:

“How are things at home?”

“What did you do this weekend?”

“What has got you worried here at work?”

However, with all the best intentions, the motivation was to understand how these answers could affect the employees performance at work.  And as a result, the manager had in his mind to then discuss solutions to the potential problems expressed by the employee.

This motivation is not a true expression of caring about the individual alone.  To the employee, it will become obvious that the manager is really interested in the company and how the employees’ problems might affect the company.

Second and third, the manager is taking on the employees problems and taking the problems away from the employee.  Most often what others need from us is for us to just listen–not to actually solve the problem.  If the problems are personal, it probably not in the manager’s space to solve those problems.  If the problem is at work, by taking on the responsibility the manager is making more work for themselves and they are taking away the power from their employee to solve their own problem.

Problems and expressions of worry are perfectly okay.  Let the employee struggle and try their own solutions.  As a manager knowing about these potential problems is important.  These conversations can give you a heads-up to potential issues, but they do not require you to intervene from the start.  Let the employee grow.  Come back and visit the topic, and reflect with the employee what was learned.  If it really was a problem.  This is coaching at its finest.

Jonathan Shaver