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Friday, November 04, 2020

Right Relationships

Dealing with people takes time. You need time to get to know them, time to establish trust and respect, time to recognize their strengths and weaknesses, and time to help them develop and grow. Perhaps the worst aspect of the frenetic management pace that's becoming the norm is the way it deprives leaders of the time to spend with the people they're charged with leading.

How do your staff know you're interested in them? I mean truly interested in their welfare and progress, not just focused on them as "worker bees" with a tough budget to meet in honey output. The answer is simple: the amount of quality time you spend with each one. It's worrying how many people feel their bosses aren't interested in them. When this happens, it usually leads to lowered interest in work objectives, less commitment and minimal trust. This isn't some "touchy feely" aspiration. Staff who feel neglected and undervalued are less productive, less cooperative, show less initiative and are more likely to call in sick or start disputes.

Holding team meetings isn't the answer. They may be useful for passing on information, but who feels the boss is showing interest in them by sitting them in a room with ten or fifteen others? People need to be valued for themselves, not just as a member of the team. They want to have the boss's undivided attention regularly — not just at appraisal time. That's like only talking with your teacher once a year at report time. If there's any criticism, it's too late to explain or show you can do better. One of the reasons people dislike appraisals so much is their bosses spring negatives on them with no opportunity to affect the "final score."

The need for time is still greater if there are people problems to deal with. What's the first thing an angry or upset person wants? They want to be heard. They want someone to take the time to listen to them properly. They don't want to be brushed off with a ready-made response or handed to the HR department to deal with, like an unwanted puppy. They want the boss's time. Deny them this and the problem will escalate. I suspect the reason many people start legal proceedings against their employers isn't simply money. It's the satisfaction of forcing the organization to pay attention to them and spend time dealing with their grievance. If their boss had spent enough time with them at the start, maybe the organization wouldn't be facing legal bills and court proceedings later.

Everything that applies to staff applies equally to customers. Think about your own experience in a store or a restaurant. How do you feel if the sales associates or the waiting staff obviously spend as little time on your needs as they can? Will it encourage you to buy? Will you return another time?

Right Relationships is a principle of Slow Leadership because it demands the correct use of time, and rushed, harassed people get it wrong. Leaders are leaders because they supervise people. Dealing with people is leadership. So if you can't or don't make enough time for that, what do you make time for?

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