Unless you know your team well, you will struggle to know how best to motivate them, to get them to trust you, and to deliver on the job in hand. Whatever career stage you’re at, from first management position to a senior leadership role, getting to know the employees around you is vital to your personal and professional success. If you’re not sure where best to start with this task, try the following tips.
Do the Timpsons Test
When it comes to getting to know your employees, one approach often discussed among HR professionals is that taken by British shoe and watch repair shop, ’Timpsons’. Managers of branches, and those in more senior roles, are required to answer a set of questions about their team, including details such as their age, address, hobbies, partner’s and children’s’ names, holiday plans and the make of car they drive. Area managers even have to take the test under exam conditions about an employee picked at random from their team of sixty.
The approach is an extreme, and learning facts about your employee for an exam might fly in the face of the very reasons you want to get to know them at all, but the sorts of facts covered are certainly the bones of what you might choose to find out about your team; however you choose to approach this challenge.
Meet colleagues individually
If you’re new to your role, one to one meetings with each member of your team should be an essential part of your first hundred days plan. By meeting individually you can ask pertinent questions about each team member on a personal level, introduce yourself properly, and also start to build an open and trusting relationship with key questions such as what would you like from me as a manager? Get ideas and suggestions with questions like what would you like to see more of round here? And even, if you’re feeling brave, how could we make work easier/more fun/more interesting for everyone?
Shoulder to shoulder
The most powerful way of getting to know your team, as well as making a real statement about your approach as a boss, is to work alongside them if possible. Depending on the sort of business, you may be able to schedule in time working with team members doing their daily tasks; this works well if you are in the retail, hospitality or services industries for example. If this is not possible, make sure you share down time with your team - have lunch in the staff canteen, or start to bring in breakfast to share one day a week to force the situation and have quality time getting to know people better without pressure.
Find time whilst you’re doing this, to say thanks and offer praise to your team - catching people doing something right sets the tone to allow you to build your relationship and shows you’re a boss who cares.
Let down your defenses
All your efforts will be wasted if you are unable to let your own defenses down a little and allow your team to get to know you as well. Bring yourself to work, have fun with your team, and the relationships will blossom. If social activities are not already arranged, consider starting some - a few simple events like a sports match or meal out will help you build bridges quickly. Make sure you, and all your team, respect the unwritten rules about what can (and can not) happen in a works group, so poor behaviour doesn’t ruin your group events, and throw yourself in there.
Get to know your team and they will go above and beyond for you, you will be better able to motivate and inspire them - and as a bonus, your daily work will be significantly more enjoyable for yourself and your team.