In a career transition program I facilitate in Michigan, our second day starts and ends with the question How do you feel?. It is a critical and strategic because it challenges people to put one word around where they are at that moment, and as facilitators we can use that word to know where we need to spend more time to circle back for some one on one conversations. It is not about fixing someone’s answer, but more about giving a voice to knowing when there is a potential barrier to learning/doing the work. This is one of those keeping the pulse strategies, that allows a group to move forward to important work, lets individuals share where they are at that moment, and in a very direct way ask for help or pause for a celebration.
So what can we do as leaders to create those moments?
First, Do you believe it is important to give your people space to air some of this stuff? If yes, read on. If no, I encourage you to read one of two books: First Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham/Curt Coffman or Drive by Daniel Pink. I share these not to make you a psychologist. My advice to leaders is their best focus is NOT to try and get inside the heads of their people, but try and get what is inside the heads of their people on the table so it can be talked about. I probably opened a can of worms with that comment – consider the comment section of this blog as a space to explore that if you desire. I am happy to defend/discuss it there. Back to the question – How can a leader get feedback on what is on the minds of their team?
Here are 3 habits that will help you understand where your people are in terms of what is on their minds and/or how they are feeling:
1. Meeting space (weekly/monthly) – The question: Create an agenda item at the beginning: Around the room: 3 Wins this week/month and 1 frustration. The execution: Just listen. Be ready to plug a big frustration aired by the team into a brainstorming/problem solving space later in the meeting or ask the person to connect later in the day with you to spend some time. If you are uncomfortable with asking/handling this question/space – get some training/mentoring soon. Not being able to ask this question and process the answers effectively will be an issue.
2. Create regular space/time to connect directly with employees – The question: What is one question you have or you are hearing that needs an answer? (note the strategy – people can ask their question (higher risk) or just share one from someone else. The execution: Make this a monthly habit with coffee and donuts. This space should be all non-direct reports and select based on anniversary dates for that month / birthdays / just became a leader in the last year / new employee that month/quarter. The key is make it inclusive and give you a chance to listen. Small company? Pizza once a month and find a round table – and whoever is there gets the question.
3. At monthly/weekly one on ones – The question: Give me one word – how are you feeling? (Yes it is a little squishy for some, but trust me it is an effective question). The execution: If you are not comfortable handling the conversation – you need some development help as a leader. The ROI: The $ spent getting better at this will save your organization $$$$ in the future and will probably have a positive impact on your relationships outside of work too. (marriage, kids, partner, name it . . . . )
Mini trU Tip: Why I think some coaching training for leaders is critical? When you invite people share things stuff will come out that requires you as a leader to: 1) Ask more questions to help the individual reveal what is at the core of this issue 2) Help the individual identify one thing they can do to address it or explore it more so it can be solved at some point in the future. If you want to spend some time learning about the voice of a coach I direct you to a blog I love by Mary Jo Asmus or a book I like called Co-Active Coaching. My only caveat is that spending time in both of these resources will help you experience the voice of a coach, and especially the Co-Active Coaching book will help you understand the process of coaching. In the end, if you want to become proficient at it plan on starting with a year-long commitment to learn about it and practice it.