Tuesday, 28 February 2017

How to Make Your Team Members Feel Like Crap

Here's the scene: You're at a party, or a conference, or a meeting-somewhere with a lot of people around. You see someone whom you'd like to talk to, so you walk over and start a conversation. And after a few seconds, they begin The Scan. You know what I'm talking about, right? It's the moment when they break eye contact and start surveying the room, looking for someone better to talk to.
Feels pretty crappy, doesn't it?
So why are you doing it with your team?
"But Bill," you say, "I'm not doing that! I don't do The Scan with my team."
Perhaps not, but there are all kinds of Scans. For example, when a team member comes to talk to you, have you ever:
  • kept your eyes on your computer screen while she is talking to you? (This sends the message, "Whatever is on my computer is more important than you.")
  • glanced at your caller ID when your phone rings to see if it's a call you should take? (This sends the message, "Whoever is calling might be more important than you.")
  • surreptitiously (or so you thought) checked your watch, cellphone, or wall clock? (This sends the message, "Whatever is coming up next is more important than you.")
Do you see a common denominator in these examples? Perhaps something about the message you're sending to your team member?Look, it's actually pretty simple. You're the leader, the boss. When a team member comes to you with something important to say (and they get to define what they think is important, not you), your job is to drop everything else and be present with that person.
"But Bill, sometimes I am waiting for an important call, or I am trying to return an important email, or I do have an important meeting coming up."
Fair enough. And these are all valid. But they are not excuses to make your team member feel like she's not important. So what do you do?
Tell her.
"Mary, I can see that this is important to you, and I want to give you my full attention. I am expecting a call, though, that I'm going to have to take. But until that call comes in, I'm all yours. Or, if you prefer, we can schedule fifteen minutes with no distractions later in the day. Which would work better for you?"
Can you see the difference? By letting her know the situation at the outset, you've set your parameters and acknowledged Mary as important to you. And isn't that what we all want?
There's a great story about two former prime ministers of England, William Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli. I don't know if the story is true or not, but it makes a great point.
A young lady was taken to dinner one evening by Gladstone and the following evening by Disraeli. When a friend asked her how the evening went, she said, "When I was talking with Mr. Gladstone, I thought he was the cleverest person in England. But when I was talking with Mr. Disraeli, I thought I was the cleverest person in England."