GCE Strategic Consulting

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The blog that shares our expertise and perspective for driving business transformation, based on the successes and failures we've seen everywhere from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies.

How to Stay Connected With Your Employees

New managers often believe that being connected with their employees means being their friend. Going out for a beer, going to a show - treating your direct reports just like you would your friends. However, an overly friendly relationship makes it difficult when the time inevitably comes to coach or manage your “friend.” For many, this can be a painful lesson to learn along the way. How do you stay connected with your employees without being buddies?It’s important to keep in mind that most employees work for you because they need a paycheck, not to gain a friend or a buddy. Yet they have a rental relationship where they provide a service and then they get paid for that service. This can be really hard for younger managers to fully grasp.Now, this doesn’t mean you can’t become friends and build a trusting relationship that can span long after they have worked for you. I personally have many friends that I have managed and continue to stay very close to over the years. However that isn’t true for the majority of my employees, nor is it the goal when we begin our manager/employee relationship.One of the most critical things you can do as a manager, however, is staying connected with them and understanding when they are up, down or even disengaged and maybe looking for a new job. Keep in mind, management is not doing people's work for them but rather driving results through people, which means if you are not connected, you set yourself up to be blindsided.Here are a couple simple tips to stay connected with your direct reports as a manager:

  • Genuinely care about the people you manage
  • Listen 80% of the time
  • Schedule weekly one-on-one ones with them
  • Ask each member of your team, and yourself, after every quarter, “What you could do differently?” Report back on suggestions you implement from employees’ suggestions
  • Conclude every single one-on-one with the question, “What do you need from me?” and/or “What can I do to help you?”
  • Understand what their career aspirations are and consider how you might help

These are simple concepts, I know. Yet you wouldn’t believe how many don’t take the simple measures and/or do it all wrong. For example, I see a lot of newer managers that move into this role because they know a lot and, instead of listening, they preach. Others underestimate the value of regularly scheduled communications and skip their one-on-ones. Too many managers are takers, never asking what the employee needs and focus instead on getting what they need and moving on. If you don’t care, it shows and it doesn’t matter. Not only will you be disconnected, but your team will eventually leave you and you won’t see it coming.Take the first step. Block 30-60 minutes on your calendar right now, and schedule one-on-one for each of your direct reports. Keep it on a regular schedule where only sickness or vacation should it change. Have a preset agenda and start out the first two minutes talking about one piece of good personal news and one piece of good professional news. End every call with "what can I do for you and how can I help you?" This is the first step in staying connected.