5 Benefits of Getting to Know Your Team

11/05/2014     

With only so many hours in a day, the concept of a manager spending 20% of their time with team members may seem counterproductive. But investing that small amount of time to build relationships has several benefits that pay off in the long run.

An expectation that’s passed on organically through their own mentoring relationships, Zappos managers and mentors are encouraged to spend time simply getting to know their team members. With days and weeks crammed with scheduled meetings, impromptu meetings, and a never-ending inbox, it can be tempting to spend that time some other way. But as the 80/20 rule suggests, that small effort can have a huge ripple effect for the manager, the employee, and the team as a whole.

You start to see an opportunity in every encounter. With time as precious as it is, looking for opportunities in a hectic schedule helps add a new perspective. It can be really easy for all of us to get into the zone and miss what’s going on with each other, so grabbing coffee and connecting with another human being instead of our computer screen can be a welcome break from the daily grind.

The work becomes more efficient. A manager may already know an employee’s strengths, but learning what their passions are can add new meaning and drive. “When strengths and passions collide, that’s real purpose,” says Kelly Wolske, Zappos Insights Trainer.

There’s a new level of awareness. “When you’ve spent that time together, there’s more mindfulness in what we say to one another,” notes Wolske. When you get to know each other on a personal level, mutual respect grows. Knowing someone’s triggers as well as their strengths can also improve communication. Listening skills will increase as well as picking up on even subtle cues. “What’s going on outside of work is always going to have an impact inside of work, so it gives you a better understanding,” adds Wolske.

You become a more effective coach. “When you get to know your employees, you learn best how your employees receive feedback, which makes you a more effective coach because feedback is all about the receipt,” says Wolske.

It dismantles the ‘boss’ wall. Breaching that natural division of the manager/employee relationship helps build trust between you and your team member. When your employees can get to know the real you, they’ll feel more comfortable with you. By being yourself, you set the tone and encourage others to do the same. When people can be themselves, the energy they’d spend maintaining that work version of themselves can be spent doing their job and feeling more relaxed.

Finding ways to connect with employees can be as simple as grabbing lunch with them or taking a 15-minute walk together. Ping pong challenges are pretty popular around Zappos HQ! Wolske suggests at least a change in venue away from your desks, even if it can’t be offsite. Doing so removes some of that ‘boss wall’ and deference that can come with it.

‘But what if I don’t have exactly 20% of every day/week to do this?’ you may be asking yourself. Hollie Delaney, Lead Link of People Ops at Zappos, offers the following suggestions. “It’s less literal and more of a guiding principle. It’s the encouragement to get to know your employees in not only how they work but who they are as people, and strengthening the emotional connections within those groups.” On the benefits she’s personally seen from the practice, Delaney says, “it helps me know how to communicate with employees and understand employees. It creates a different level of the relationship; it’s supporting each other to move something forward, not doing the work because I said so.” When people feel like they’re working with friends, they feel more accountable to each other and that there’s a team effort working towards a common goal, and that’s something any organization can benefit from.

 

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Author: Erica Spelman

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