We all know how important it is to connect with our people, yet why then do I so often hear in my leadership coaching and consulting work that “My boss and our top executives do not take the time to have conversations with us?”

To engage our people and for them to be motivated to do great work, they want a leader they can stand behind, actually ideally alongside, one who is visible, cares for and speaks with them.

Everyone in our companies wants to do well and be successful, and they need to feel appreciated and heard, and that their ideas matter.

We can find ourselves caught up in endless meetings focused on numbers, results and spreadsheets. Yes, these things are important, though as Al Ritter, author of the insightful book and a worthwhile read, The 100/0 Principle offers, we have to focus equally on results and our relationships with our people.

Every business is a people business and quality relationships matter with our clients and our internal clients, who are our people!

More than half of the workforce, yes, more than 50%, do not feel they have a helpful, constructive working relationship with their manager.

This is such a shame, as these are good people who, as I said above, want to do well, want to be successful and our company to be successful.

There are simple, yet meaningful ways we can shift this trend. We can engage with our people through one-on-one conversations. The unscheduled conversations we have with our people when we walk the halls mean a great deal to them. This is when we get a pulse of what is really happening in our company. By checking in to see how they are doing, asking for their ideas and feedback, and how we can help them, we will learn invaluable information to help us in our leadership and to benefit our company.

Even short conversations are better than no conversations.

Let’s be sure though, to give our full presence and attention and to listen to understand and learn. As a leader, attentive listening is our most important skill.

We must spend less time in meetings and on the Internet and phone. Eliminating standing meetings and having them when necessary and making meetings more efficient will free up enormous amounts to time and we can then give more attention to our people, who are producing our results.

Having insightful conversations, asking for our people’s ideas, input, advice and feedback is the work of a true leader. Let’s bear in mind that asking for ideas and even help is a sign of strength and also is very much appreciated by our people. It illustrates our humility and willingness to be vulnerable, and this opens the door to trust and solid relationships.

A leader needs to be comfortable in their own skin, own areas that they could improve, themselves, and for the betterment of their team and company, accept they will not have the answers to everything, recognize the strengths of their people and know that the best ideas are built upon. This humility and vulnerability lead to increased engagement, teamwork and dedication to our success.

Leadership is not about our being great, it’s about our helping others be great.

We should try to invest at least a third of our time in conversations with our people. We need to spend time with our people by walking the halls, stopping by, asking for their ideas, their feedback, what they need, how we can improve, how we can help them, what they are learning from our clients and similar open ended purposeful questions.

Our people will be appreciative and we will gain a wealth of helpful ideas!

Just know, it is important that we slow down, connect and are fully present in our conversations. Put people at ease, maintain comfortable eye contact, smile, offer affirmations, do not make judgments, ask clarifying questions, and take notes, as it not only helps us remember, it honors the person with whom we are speaking.

I cannot stress how important it is to be fully present to our people when speaking with them as they know when we have our mind and attention elsewhere and this not only disappoints them, it diminishes their respect for us.

We are all in a people business and quality relationships with our people will likely lead to consistent, outstanding results. Engagement leads to happiness and happy employees do better work. Take good care of our people and they will do good work and take good care of our clients.

And check out a great guide to employee appreciation ideas!

Let’s make slowing down, connecting a top priority.

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John Keyser

John Keyser is the founder and principal of Common Sense Leadership, www.commonsenseleadership.com. He works with executives helping them develop organizational cultures that will produce outstanding financial results year after year, and a striving for continuous improvement, theirs and their team's. His contact information is john@johnkeysercoach.com and 202-236-2800.
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