Being a leader requires the ability to build rapport with your team. Those following you must have good reason to do so.
Every time you have a one-on-one talk with your employees, you have a big opportunity to add to and build that individual rapport.
However, with the COVID-19 pandemic, too many teams are separated, working remotely, and having trouble connecting. Or do they?
The very best leaders I know have been using the following six questions (and then some) to stay connected, stay in communication, and thrive during this period.
Use this in some form or another every time you get that golden opportunity to talk to each individual on your team.
The 6 questions are:
Where are WE going?
Ask this intentionally so that the employee or follower is able to express in their own words their understanding of the current state. Let them tell you what they understand to be the mission and direction.
If the answer catches you off guard, then maybe you have a big disconnect that needs to be handled immediately.
The “we” here is about the team. Be sure to gauge whether the individual’s understanding is in step with the team direction you hope for.
Where are YOU going?
This is a logical follow-up to #1. If the person expresses a correct team direction but shares a personal variance in what they think is happening, then you have another opportunity to connect and correct.
The where are you going question also measures engagement. When an individual has begun to disengage with the team, they must be offered the opportunity to reconnect.
What do you think you are doing well?
This is a great opportunity to let the individual team member express their pride for what might be working for them. Let them share their focus.
Again though, if there is a bit of misalignment, this is the perfect opportunity to realign, recalibrate the role and the duties to set the path for better performance.
By allowing the person to share, you open the communication letting them state in their own words the accomplishments they view as significant.
What are some suggestions for improvement?
Open the door for individual dialogue about ways to improve things. The people who are on the frontlines see things differently than you. Be open to listening to these observations. You just might get the next great idea.
How can I help?
This may be the most powerful of all questions a manager/leader can ask a follower. Letting them know you are there to help is the biggest proof of your commitment to seeing them succeed.
This is an especially important question during remote working conditions.
Don’t ask it if you don’t mean it, but use it sincerely and you will see team commitment rise significantly.
If something is suggested, you must follow through to get it resolved or delivered. Don’t let this golden opportunity fall flat on its face from your inability to deliver.
If the ask is too big, then say so. Explain what the limitations are, but be real. Let the person know they were heard and that you understand.
What suggestions do you have for me to be a better manager?
This is last but by no means the least of these 6 questions. Again, your hope should be to receive sincere feedback. Your response should be an open acceptance of what you get told.
If all you do is ask the question but recoil, then you’ve missed the opportunity.
However, if you take the suggestion and do something with the feedback, you build great rapport and trust.
Speaking of Trust
Trust is at the root of the best-performing teams. Building an atmosphere of high trust keeps the whole team engaged with you as the boss. Having the rapport through regular, recurring one-on-ones with your team, using these six questions, will keep the trust growing.
In a recent study conducted at Google, they spent two years researching what made some of their teams perform better than others.
The overwhelming answer was “psychological safety” or TRUST. When teams created a safety net of trust, team members performed at much higher levels.
I’ve developed the following model to help explain the six elements for building and maintaining trust within your team. This model has been used by industry giants in several different settings.
When trust is present, people can accept bad news. They won’t necessarily like it but they can better accept it when they know you have their backs. They get to that end by seeing you make the effort to build rapport at each chance you get. As rapport improves, so will the trust they have.
Call to Action
If you are a manager or executive who needs a little help with any of these ideas, perhaps a coach can help. To learn more about the coaching I do, schedule a call to speak with someone about the programs and ways we can help.