Leadership Insight: Planning to “Be There” For Your Team

By Wayne Davies

I am not a great advocate of New Year’s resolutions but I do appreciate the opportunity that the New Year presents to start afresh at work.  Given the year that just finished, there is probably no better year than 2021 for developing some fresh leadership habits.

I heard many stories in 2020 about the value of “being there” for clients and staff.

Simply reaching out to check on people who were working at home, feeling isolated or just having to deal with a different set of circumstances was constantly cited as a high value activity in 2020.  Benefits for businesses who took this approach included increases in employee engagement and customer loyalty.

This valuable lesson is at risk of being lost as we (hopefully) head back to higher levels of workplace-based activity in 2021 and return to our “normal” work routines and busy schedules.  Consciously planning to maintain the habit back in the workplace might help.

So what does “being there” involve?

It’s actually frighteningly simple (which is why it can be a good New Year’s resolution!).

Simple actions include:

  • Eye contact in all interactions.
    • That means physically stopping typing or looking at the screen or your phone to look at the person talking to you. It’s even better if you turn to face the person.
  • Actively listening and responding with questions.
    • This shows a high level of engagement with the person you are dealing with. Even better if you follow up with another related question later in the day or check the next day to see how things turned out. Put a reminder in your calendar if you normally forget to do this.
  • Encouraging random interaction.
    • This is one of the biggest drawbacks of the COVID-inspired work from home model. The opportunity to just catch each other in passing.
    • “Professionalism” and “time management” might have us direct our team members to “send me a calendar appointment if you want to catch up” but this actively discourages people from engaging with you – and often results in the message circulating through your organisation that you are “always too busy”.
    • The most engaging people I have worked for always seemed to have time despite them being busy people – in fact, they create a calming influence in an otherwise chaotic world.

I often hear leaders saying that their teams are not fully engaged in the business.  But like most interactions, engagement is a two-way street.

Next time you wonder why your team member is not engaged in what you think is important…ask yourself when you were last engaged in their world.

Wayne is the Founder, Director and Principal Consultant of NextGen Success – a training and coaching provider, helping small and medium-sized organisations to get the best out of their people.