One of the most important aspects of being a good leader is truly knowing and understanding your team. In order to be a leader, people must follow you and this begins with a commitment to really taking a vested interest in your employees. Knowing your team and showing appreciation for their contributions helps to create a strong professional bond and a sense of trust and community within your organization.
All of that said, it’s not always easy for managers to figure out how to find the right balance between being friendly with employees while also keeping things professional. While we can all agree that building rapport is important in forming strong working relationships, there is still that line where things can become too personal. It’s important to keep in mind that you are there to be a manager, not a best friend. However, it is still important to get to know your employees on a more personal level. Here are some effective ways to connect with your employees and get to know them while still maintaining a high level of professionalism.
Communicate Frequently and Learn About Your Team
Communication is a major component of leadership. After all, this is how you share information with your team, learn about them, and find out more about their needs. Communication should always be a two-way street. Just as you communicate your expectations and objectives to your team, you also want them to be able to share ideas, voice concerns, and provide feedback. Part of communication also involves actually learning about your team. For example, do you know their birthdays? Do you know if they have children? Do you know what their professional goals are? Are you aware of their hobbies or interests? Getting to know your team members a little better can make a big difference in workplace morale.
Host Team Events
All work and no play is never a recipe for success. Take some time to host social events such as a coffee outing, a team building activity, or an office luncheon to get to know your employees in an environment outside of work. It’s important that you see each other as people, and not just employee/manager relationships. This is also a great way to discover new talents and traits that your employees have, which can help you better understand their behavior.
Implement an open door policy and encourage employees to come talk with you about both professional and personal matters. Having a friendly and approachable disposition can make you more endearing to your employees. They will appreciate your sincere authenticity and willingness to listen to their concerns.
Imagine working for a manager who encouraged you to take time off to spend with family. Think about how nice it would be if your manager encouraged you to leave work to attend school functions for your children. How would you feel if your manager was understanding about your responsibility to care for a sick or aging parent? All of these situations are personal, but can really have an impact on your professional life. Having a manager who understands your personal matters and is compassionate to those needs can really be impactful for employees.