Over the past 10-15 years, companies have continued to get leaner in an effort to create more value for clients with fewer resources. This trend does not seem to be changing anytime soon. While great for the company’s bottom line, this can sometimes put a great deal of strain on your company’s leaders, as they are required to coach associates, complete progress evaluations, keep up with continuing education requirements, attend networking events, conferences, and seminars, and address the ever-increasing demands of clients. When pulled in so many directions, the responsibilities a leader has to their employees can often fall low on their priority list.
I struggled with this recently, as the demands of my job increased when one of my team’s employees resigned over the summer. Suddenly, I was not only completing my ex-employee’s job responsibilities, but I was also required to look at potential candidates’ resumes and cover letters and sit in interviews, all while fulfilling my regular workload and supporting the other employees on my team. Like most of you reading this, my regular workload was already keeping me plenty busy before everything else was added! I’m sure you can all relate.
Despite being pulled in many directions, I was determined to be a supportive leader to my team. I mean, how can I write blog posts and host a webinar about being a good leader if I don’t walk the walk when the going gets tough? Besides, the resignation of their team member was stressful for my employees, too.
The best way I found to help my team navigate through this difficult time was with a lot of communication, both formal and informal. Little check-ins throughout the day – “How are you doing?” “What can I help you with?” – really seemed to keep morale up. I made sure to give them a daily overview of my schedule so they would always know where to find me if they needed my help, and they did the same for me, which kept us all on the same page. These check-ins took about 5 minutes each day.
I also have a standing meeting with each of my team members for a half hour every Friday morning, which gives them the opportunity to bring up any frustrations or challenges, as well as keep me abreast of their workload. I’ll admit that there were times this summer when I struggled to find the time for these meetings, but doing so actually allowed me to delegate some tasks from my to-do list to my team members here and there. Keeping the lines of communication open helped me to know when my employees had the capacity to accept additional responsibilities, which freed up my schedule a bit to screen and interview potential candidates for our team’s open position.
I say this as a reminder for all of us as leaders, myself included, that the times that we’re at our busiest and most stressed is when we need to communicate with our teams the most. Our employees look to us as barometers, most especially in the difficult times, and we must show them respect by keeping them in the loop to give them a clear sense of expectations. When everyone knows what’s expected of them, we are all more successful and better equipped to tackle challenges.
Leaders need to make the most of our limited time, and sometimes connecting with our teams may fall low on our list of priorities. Employees who see their leaders as a member of the team and as someone who trusts and respects them, will be more willing to go the extra mile when need be. And in my experience, the best way to build trust and respect is through clear and open communication.
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