The 10 Essential Whys and Hows for Building Relationships with Your Staff | #MONDAYMAGIC

I’ve decided I’m happy to be cliche and I’m owning it. I’m being cliche this beautiful February by focusing our month’s blog series on RELATIONSHIPS. However, not the romantic kind, but instead the ones that matter in your career.

This week we’re focusing on the essential whys and hows for building relationships with your staff — but stay tuned over the next couple of weeks to learn the essentials for your relationships with your coworkers and your boss.

Oftentimes, leaders and managers are promoted to their roles because of their great performance of doing the technical work of their jobs, not necessarily because of their leadership skills and abilities. This unfortunately leads to a mismatch of employees in leadership positions, as being a great leader takes investment and practice just like any other skill and is not just “innate”. Add that to the fact that at least 45% of managers have never had any sort of formal leadership training.

Without that training and proper match we end up with managers and leaders that are not willing to engage in these incredibly important “soft” aspects of being a great leader. If you’re still weary about the importance of building genuine relationships with your staff, let’s dive right in with WHY these relationships are so important to the bottom line.

The Whys:

Managers think they’re transparent and effective, but not all employees agree

First, we need to accept that as leaders we may not be doing quite as great as we think we’re doing. According to this Forbes article, “…while 80% of managers said they’re transparent with their teams, just 55% of employees agreed. What’s even more disturbing is that only 53% of employees felt like their managers actually cared about their well-being.”

This may be frustrating to hear, I implore you to instead take this point as motivation to continually work harder with your teams. We are never done learning and there is no finish line. A great leader recognizes that and does not get complacent in their relationships with their teams.

Engaged employees produce SIGNFICANTLY more

At the end of the day, you as a manager and leader are responsible for the success of your teams and that is going to continue to be top of mind. Your focus is (and should be) on increasing the bottom line, increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of your teams, and crushing outcomes.

It’s easy to get bogged down by the day to day of that focus and think that time spent on building relationships is time wasted, but it’s quite the opposite. According to Gallup, “Engaged employees make it a point to show up to work and do more work — highly engaged business units realize a 41% reduction in absenteeism and a 17% increase in productivity.” That increased activity and productivity generates leads to, “Highly engaged business units achieving a 10% increase in customer ratings and a 20% increase in sales.”

HELLOOOOO — we cannot ignore the bottom line importance of this engagement.

Managers account for 70% of variance in employee engagement

And guess what? That lack of engagement is not because your team is lazy or just because they don’t have a great work ethic, it’s mostly based on YOU as a manager. Gallup found that, “…managers account for at least 70% of variance in employee engagement scores.”

Now do I have your attention?? It’s on us my friends.

One in two adults have left a job to get away from a manager

So if we’re not doing our job to effect employee engagement in a positive way (every single day!) we start to see the super obvious negative impacts, like losing our talent. Gallup studies also show that, “…one in two had left their job to get away from their manager to improve their overall life at some point in their career.”

The old adage, “employees don’t leave jobs, they leave managers”, is going strong in today’s workforce. I mean come on, at least HALF of us have left a job solely to get away from a manager (I know I have). Sounds like our jobs as great leaders is one of the (if not THE) most important piece of any company or organization’s success.

Turnover is COSTLY

Gallup states, “Engaged workers also are more likely to stay with their employers. In high-turnover organizations, highly engaged business units achieve 24% less turnover. In low-turnover organizations, the gains are even more dramatic: Highly engaged business units achieve 59% less turnover. High-turnover organizations are those with more than 40% annualized turnover, and low-turnover organizations are those with 40% or lower annualized turnover.”

So no matter how much turnover you’re suffering today, you are missing an opportunity to maximize employee engagement’s effects on your workforce. And guess how much that costs you? Check out this Forbes article to determine your specific cost of turnover but also, “Off-the-shelf estimates are available, which might set the cost of an entry-level position turning over at 50 percent of salary; mid-level at 125 percent of salary; and senior executive over 200 percent of salary.”

I’ve gotta say, if you aren’t convinced yet that employee engagement is your number one job as a leader, you might need to rethink your role as a leader. Sorry, not sorry. BUT if you’re motivated by this and want to become a better leader, read on my friends. Let’s get into the HOWS.

The Hows:

Make time to meet regularly

Did you know that, “employees whose managers hold regular meetings with them are almost three times as likely to be engaged as employees whose managers do not hold regular meetings with them.”? Thanks again Gallup.

Studies show that some sort of daily communication makes a huge difference, whether it’s electronic, phone or in-person, but the best standard I suggest to all companies I work with is to meet face-to-face (or at least video face-to-face if you’re remote) with your direct reports at least once per week. We get into this big time in The Leadership Project.

Encourage relationships in the workplace

It blows my mind that there are still workplaces that discourage employees from being friends outside of work. Study after study shows that having friends at work and encouraging a social side to the workplace increases engagement, and we know engagement increases our success.

Yes, you should ensure you are encouraging healthy relationships among coworkers and training your folks on what is appropriate and not, especially in terms of harassment and social media, but don’t let those fears keep you from growing the relationships within your teams.

Check out this interesting study here to learn more, but I found it incredibly interesting that this study found that study participants, “…with more social connections — and more interactions with coworkers in their social network — had the highest productivity, whether they were talking about work or, say, basketball.” Seeeee… it’s not crazy.

Invest in your leaders

As I mentioned above, at least 45% of managers report not having ANY formal leadership training whatsoever. We are leaving our managers and leaders to lead blindly without any tools – that is unacceptable in my view. With all of this knowledge on how incredibly crucial your company’s leadership is to the success of your company or organization and yet we aren’t investing in our leadership development? COME ON.

Check out this Forbes article for more, but they found, “Formal leadership programs are powerful tools to train and support managers, but scalability is important here, too. Today’s modern learning academies are flexible, personalized and easy to use, and the Instructional Technology Council’s 2016 research concluded that 95% of respondents described online learning courses as equivalent or superior to in-person courses. As long as managers are learning to build strong, healthy relationships that empower employees, bite-sized, on-demand videos are just as effective as in-person small-group training sessions.” SHAMELESS PLUG: SEE THE LEADERSHIP PROJECT.

Set goals (and not just in an annual review)

If you only talk about goals with your team at their annual review, you are missing major opportunities throughout the year to increase your employee engagement. In a Harvard Business Review study looking at the top communication issues preventing effective leadership were, “…not having time to meet with employees, refusing to talk to subordinates and not asking about employees’ lives outside of work.” Yet another point in favor of meeting regularly with your teams.

Those regular meetings set up time for managers to clearly set goals WITH their teams and clarify direction and expectations each week before anyone has gone too far off track. Great leaders realize working collaboratively on setting goals and expectations with their teams will increase their employee engagement and success significantly.

Gallup studies show, “Engaged employees are more likely than their colleagues to say their manager helps them set work priorities and performance goals. These employees also more likely to say that their manager holds them accountable for their performance.”

Ask about your staff’s lives outside of work

Not sure if you recognized this last line in the above quote from the Harvard Business Review, but if not it shared that a common complaint of ineffective manager-to-employee communication was the lack of asking about employees’ lives outside of work.

This is NOT wasted time. These relationships cannot just be surface level, but rather must be genuine and allow your team to feel cared for as a human being. Ensuring there is room to talk about your teams’ WHOLE lives is crucial to building these relationships. Make sure that each of those weekly check-ins start with asking about your employee’s personal life (as easy as asking about their weekend!).

So What Now?

I challenge you to take 30 minutes to yourself and reflect on what you’re doing to increase the engagement of your teams. Are you meeting with your team regularly? Are you setting clear goals and expectations collaboratively? Are you creating opportunities for employees to grow friendships? Are you getting to know your team members as human beings? Are you investing in your team’s growth?

Share one thing in the comments below that you are going to try this month to better engage your teams. Let’s learn from one another!

Talk soon,

Nikki