April 18, 2017

Three Ways to Be Present With Your Team

How to build intentional connections on a growing team.

The larger an organization grows, the harder it is to connect with everyone in it—to be present in the way you once were. This distance can be difficult to understand, especially for those who were first with you when the organization or church was small. Nothing creates more heartburn for a staff member than a decrease in access to the senior leader when access was once all they knew.

Every leader I know battles the tension between wanting to connect broadly yet needing to stay focused intentionally. But great leaders get creative; they create ways to continue to be present with their team long after the organization has grown beyond their ability to connect.

How do you do it? Here are a few of the best ideas I’ve stolen for creating intentional connection:

Crash the break room.

Most leaders I know don’t stop for lunch. If they do, it’s usually a working lunch (i.e. a lunch meeting). However, lunches can be strategic times to connect with your team without work getting in the way. How? Crash the break room.

Those days you don’t have a lunch meeting, take 20 minutes to wander down the hall and sit with whoever has gathered together to eat. Stay a while. Join the conversation. Find out what’s going on in their world. Laugh. Eat. Connect. You’ll be surprised how much it means to your team that you are willing to slow down every now and then and drop in on their world.

Every leader I know battles the tension between wanting to connect yet needing to stay focused.
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Plan agenda-less lunches.

A senior leader of a huge organization on the East Coast once told me that he has his assistant schedule a monthly, casual lunch with a random department in his organization—one he doesn’t regularly get face-time with and rarely has the opportunity to speak into.

Sometimes it’s brown bag, sometimes they go out. There is no agenda. There is no unspoken developmental goal. He simply eats with the team and spends the time simply connecting. About two-thirds of the way through the lunch, he takes just a minute to thank the team specifically for something they’ve done lately in the organization. Then he lets them know he’s open to continuing to connect or answering any questions they might have.

In his words, they rarely ask the hard things he fears they might. Usually they’re just happy he’s there, but every now and then someone asks a striking question that gives him insight into what’s happening in the organization. It’s a simple addition to your schedule that can bring huge dividends to your leadership.

Schedule tag-along trips.

Drive time can feel like wasted time. Hours of a leader’s week can be lost traveling to meetings or moving from Point A to Point B. But some of the best leaders I know seize these moments to connect with a team member, develop a young leader or catch up with someone in strategic conversation.

Invite someone along to a meeting or to an experience that they would otherwise never get (think networking luncheons, sales calls, hospital visits, etc.). This simple act can create key moments and open the door to key conversations, because drive time equals talk time. Figure out how to redeem those “wasted” moments in your week and use them to intentionally connect with or develop someone.

There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy for connecting with everyone. Regardless of what you choose to do, try something. The mere fact that you try will speak volumes to your team.

Adapted from an article on the author’s blog, posted September 27, 2016.

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