Why You SHOULD “Date” Those Who Report to You

Why You SHOULD “Date” Those Who Report to You!

Posted on April 21, 2011 by wtrentcotton

One of the most misunderstood leadership concepts surrounds recruiting. Most managers botch the recruiting function in two ways:

  1. They are reactionary to openings
  2. Once someone has joined, they stop recruiting

In essence, recruiting is much like dating and the relationship we have with our team members can function a lot like a marriage. The cycle is incredibly similar. Let’s just look at behaviors during the dating cycle vs. marriage.

Dating Marriage
You eagerly wait to answer the phone when the “love interest” calls. You will answer the phone, but the excitement is gone. You tend to see it more as a task to be completed.
You go out of your way to communicate your feelings and reassure your “love interest” of where they stand. You assume that since you said “I do” there should not be a need to reinforce this phrase. I mean after all, you wear the ring every day right!?
You are intimately aware of each little behavior and constantly analyze whether this is a good thing or bad thing in terms of your relationship. Again, you said “I do” so some things can be ignored as “everyday life”. You discount things as a mood swing or bad day.
No gift is out of the question. Anything to show your affection. You even go so far as to notice what type of drink they like or where they like to shop. Your gift is the roof over the head or the house being clean or in some of the more serious cases, the fact you’re still around.

Now, I am not in any way saying the marriage column is indicative of my marriage or how any marriage should be. I am also not endorsing any sort of real dating of any of your team members because that ultimately leads to disaster, but hopefully you get the point. Now, let’s talk about the two mistakes.

Reactionary Recruiting

Granted, there are many times where an opening catches everyone off guard. With this said, however, as a leader, you must accept the simple fact at some point, you will have an opening on your team at some point. So if we know this is an inevitable truth of leadership, we should take the notion to always be recruiting right?

Most of the successful leaders I have worked with have a “hit list” of prospective employees. Although they may not have a position currently available, they make time every week and/or month to meet with the perspective A-Players in their market. As a recruiter, I can tell you this is the best strategy as it provides you a very non-intrusive manner to build a relationship with a perspective candidate. There’s an added benefit in being able to meet with members of the competition to gain market intelligence as well. So when you look at it from a practical stand point, this ideology is a win/win situation for any leader!

Continuous Recruiting

The other pitfall to avoid is stopping the recruiting process once the candidate is hired. In fact, you should, as a leader, always be in recruiting mode. You could go on as an ostrich with your head in the hole of daily activities and ignore possible warning signs of one of your team member’s impending departure, or you could make it a daily goal to constantly recruit your team be more of aware of potential members at risk.

Think back to your most recent recruiting win. Chances are, your “6th sense” as a leader was incredibly heightened to every little twitch in the candidate’s behavior. You were more in tune with changes in inflection of their voice, behavior changes, and even nonverbal cues. This is normal because at the time, this was someone you really wanted so you naturally became more aware of each little idiosyncrasy that would either confirm or challenge the recruiting process.

Now, think of how you are with your team. Are you as aware of such minor changes? Unfortunately, once someone joins our team, we have a tendency to get into a routine and assume all is good, thus numbing our leadership antennas to potential changes in our team members. This is not a good thing. It is this type of behavior which typically fosters the phrase, “I never saw it coming” after a loss. Ironically, if we were to continue the recruiting process, even after someone is hired, we would remain consistently aware of our team members’ state of mind at all times. How do you do this? The same way you courted them!

  • Make it a point to be aware of where your member’s state of mind is which will require you to be engaged with them
  • Look for ways and/or times you can “date” your team members. This could include a lunch to just catch up on them, non work related.
  • Little gifts are always great. This could be something as simple as a handwritten note to thank them for a job well done on a project or a gift card to their favorite joint. This doesn’t have to be anything expensive in terms of money, but needs to be expensive in terms of your thought and time in the effort.
  • Frequent communication is key. Try not to be one of those leaders/managers who only talks to their team when there’s a numbers update or a crisis to manage. Take some time to just “hang out” with them.
  • Be spontaneous. An idea for your team might be bringing in a Wii or Playstation with a sports game and having a challenge during the lunch hour where you bring lunch in. Cut out one afternoon and take everyone to a movie or …. Fill in the blank. Again, it’s not hard and doesn’t need to be expensive in a dollars sense. Showing you care will go a long way with your team.

So, take some time and think of ways you can date your prospects and date your current team. You’ll have a healthier team, become a better leader, and who knows, you might actually find you enjoy the people who work for you. If not, then, well we’ll talk about how to divorce team members in another post! Happy dating!

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.

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