As a leader, having a good relationship with your team is a key to success. A way to start building this relationship is by getting to know and understand each individual team member — what they are like as professionals and what makes them tick as a person. This, of course, needs to be done without moving into inappropriate areas of their personal life.
Whether you’re a manager who just hired a new team member or new manager joining a team, you’re in a situation where you must get to know people. With all of the work already piling up, how can you possibly make time to get to know your employees, aside from sending them a long, intrusive survey?
First, don’t waste any time. Although it may seem awkward learning about people, imagine how awkward it is when you still have no idea about who they are after they’ve been working under you for a year. With that in mind, spread out the “getting to know you” questions to avoid bombarding a new employee. This will also make it easier for you to remember the information. Finally, when a person tells you about themselves, always listen, show interest and understand what their saying. This will help you recall it later.
As a manager, you want to get to know your new employees on two different levels – professionally and, to a lesser degree, personally. Professionally, learn about a person’s strengths and weaknesses, their experiences, their goals and their work habits. It’s much easier to lead somebody when you know how they learn and organize themselves. Never pry into an employee’s personal information but if they offer it, understand what motivates them, as well as what they may be dealing with outside of the office.
So how do you go about gathering all of this information? Here are a few simple tips and strategies:
Ask other managers. Especially if you’re new or if your employee came from another department, one of your colleagues may be able to provide input. This isn’t limited internally, as you know from the hiring process, references can provide valuable insight.
Schedule one-on-ones. Regular meetings are an opportunity to ask what would make things more interesting for them and how things can improve around the office. Their responses will teach you some of their motivations, priorities, and values.
Work on a project. Rather than always being a “manager”, join a project and work with your team at the same level. They will become more comfortable with you and share more as a result.
Be open to conversation. An open door policy and a commitment to a few minutes of casual chit-chat each day can go a long way in getting to know somebody.
Some (most?) people dread them, but when time permits, the right setting with the right icebreaker can help you get to know somebody and be a phenomenal team builder.
Team socials. After work, get together for activities. It can be a pub night, exercise, or celebrate birthdays and achievements.
Bring treats. It is possible to buy love, at least when it’s with food. Bringing in baked goods or having a bowl of candy on your desk can start great conversation.
Work on conflicts together. Adversity and conflict resolution can strengthen a relationship. People often expose a different side of themselves when working through a tough situation.
Ask interesting questions. There are plenty of resources on the web with questions to ask to get to know somebody professionally, or quirky questions to see their softer side.
It would be unrealistic to expect an employee to open up right away, but with some time, effort, and a smile, it won’t be long before you know more about an employee than just what’s on their resume. What steps have you taken to get to know a new employee?