In this age of 400+ emails, blog posts, meetings, webinars, and video conferencing, I believe many of our inter-departmental, inter-team, or inter line of business disconnects happen not as a result of a lack of meetings. Lord knows I feel so unproductive some days after back to back calls, or webinars. Sometimes, when I get in the routine of not being seen, I have to force myself to get out of the technology box and start shaking some hands and kissing some…. Babies I guess.
While returning from visiting a client in Houston, I started to feel the anxiety of the mounting emails yet to be answered, voicemails to return and the endless to do list typing itself out in my head. I flew in to help facilitate a couple of relationship-related transactions which is large part of my job, but I have become so accustomed to doing this via phone, I had lost sight of the power of sitting across the table from someone, even if it’s at a Starbucks. On conference calls, or even video conferencing, you cannot read as much about a person as you can sitting directly across from them, eye to eye.
I had been chasing after this one prospect for about five months. We have had some pretty in depth conversations and things clicked, but there was still something keeping him from taking the leap. Of course, I tried every version of questioning since I have been so blessed with the silver tongue, but just could not, for the life of me, figure out what the deal was. Well, on a recent visit, I decided to take advantage of some free time and invite the prospect to coffee. We met for about forty minutes talking about favorite books, what got them into what they are doing now, family, everything but the question I was so earnestly seeking the answer to. Then it happened. I had begun packing up things in my mind, looking for a transitional point to honor the prospect’s time when these words started a new conversation, “You know Trent, I’m glad we finally got to meet…” From this point, the prospect began pulling back the curtain and finally, I had my answer and I had my action plan too!
Switching sides, what about your team? When was the last time you just sat down with them and talked about something irrelevant to work? How about bringing in some muffins or snacks and having a shoot the breeze conversation in the conference room? Sometimes, as a team member, I like knowing or remembering my boss is human. I like to know that funny story they could not believe they shared. It makes them more relatable. There should still be some cognitive effort to avoid getting too chummy as that can open up some other issues, but pulling the curtain back every once in a while is not a bad thing.
You don’t just have to do this in a group setting, take one member of your team a week out for a coffee or lunch. Use the time to thank them for what they are doing, find out their interests, find out their frustrations. Whatever you do, be sure you listen more than you speak. Ask questions, earnestly force yourself to get to know them in a deeper (but still legal) way. I know when I have taken the time to do this in the past when I led a team; I was surprised by the loyalty, commitment, as well as the challenges that resulted from the effort. In a sense, the team became more effective, communicative, and I had to sharpen my game. I was able to create an environment of communication with my team and as a result, ingenuity, ownership, empowerment, and competition emerged.
So your challenge:
Think of the one client or team member you have been struggling with. It may not be struggling as in conflict, but maybe persuading a client or prospect to accept an idea you have. Now, think of some way you can show some love and show your face to them to get to know them, find out what makes them tick. So we have the who, the what, now, figure out the when and the where. Finally, commit to making it happen, set a deadline. And if you’re feeling spunky, comment to let me know how it goes!
Trent Cotton has spent a number of years in management and business consulting. After spending some time in the field, he joined the HR department, beginning in recruiting and eventually serving as the Department Head of HR for one of the major lines of business. With such a varied background, he works to bring all of these together to help organizations incorporate best practices into their business to help them succeed. In his free time, he also writes a lot on his other blog, Christian Men, Christian Warrior.
For my professional resume, click here.