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Why it's Important to Talk about the People Side of Work

Cast your mind back to when you last had a face-to-face meeting in your leadership or management team. What did you talk about?

Typically, most leadership teams get together online and the focus is on individual reporting. People go around the room and talk about what results they have achieved. Every week, these weekly meetings focus on information sharing with little decision making, exchanging of ideas or big picture discussions.

Now that COVID restrictions have eased, many teams are starting to meet more regularly face-to-face. Some of these teams have not been in the same room together for two years. Getting together in-person can be quite exciting, particularly if you have never met physically before or you are meeting at an offsite in a lovely location.
Yet, how good are your social skills when you are together? A lot of people tell me how leaders are a bit rusty with their in-person skills.  While others are falling back into the same old habits. Habits that could be ignored during the pandemic when people didn't have to deal with one another that much. 
With hybrid work here to stay, it's fair to say that most employees only want to go into the office if they are doing work that requires some sort of collaboration. Today, there now has to be value in coming together.
But are you leveraging face-to-face time well? Are you creating value for your people?

People Focused Leadership

Recently, I ran a ninety minute workshop at an offsite with a leadership team in banking. The team were close-knit and had built great levels of trust within their team. Typically, they shared the common problem of building trust with those outside of their team.
We did a session on how to create a thriving, trusted team culture. Now, you might be thinking that would be redundant in a team that trusts one another. Yet, they had never reflected on the importance of trust and how pivotal it was to how they operate.
Afterwards, they shared that "As a collective, we haven't openly talked about trust. It was really good as a team to self-reflect and get each other's perspectives. We had taken it for granted. We have good relationships, but they are based on a need and desire to get work done, but not beyond that. Getting it more front of mind to think about more consciously is really important. It's given us the space to think about transferring that knowledge and that focus on trust through the ranks to the team and how that relates to our values."
The team appreciated the opportunity to talk about the people side of work - how they were behaving and what they needed from those around them. It sparked a thirst to learn more. The general managers who were running larger teams felt like they had techniques and new things to share with their people. It created a lot of excitement and intense discussion in the room, powering the team to talk more deeply on strategic challenges over the next couple of days at their retreat.

Focusing on the How, Not the What

A study by Zenger and Folkman analysed 400,000 360-degree survey results. They found that the most successful leaders possessed a powerful combination of competencies. Of leaders in the top quartile, 66% possessed both a focus on results and interpersonal skills (the ability to develop and maintain relationships). Meanwhile, only 13% of leaders who focused on results alone and only 9% of leaders who focused on interpersonal skills alone reached the 90% percentile.

Focusing on both results and interpersonal skills ensures there are fewer people issues to handle. In other words, there is less friction in achieving outcomes. 

Typically, most team teams come together and they share the what - what they are doing. Yet, how the results are being achieved matter equally as much. When leaders only focus on what they are achieving, it's too easy for success to be manipulated through optimising revenue and expenses to match earning expectations. It also makes it more common for people to push their own agenda without considering the needs of others.

Discussing team dynamics, or the stuff you can't always see, is critical to high performance. Otherwise, you are at the mercy of poor behaviours that never get addressed.

Talking about behaviours and interactions can be revolutionary. This is because it is quite rare in business. Not only that, people love the discussions. It gives them a whole new perspective on why people are behaving the way they do. More importantly, it provides a reflective lens to contemplate how they, themselves, are operating.

Clients tell me is that it can also be a refreshing change to discuss the people side of things and interactions, rather than skills to do jobs. Delving into the how and why gives a more rounded and holistic approach to leading.  Given that employees expectations have changed and they want more caring leaders, it provides the discussions to help support employees and one another at a more deeper level. 

Doing things Differently

What the pandemic has taught us is that when we work with a team in-person, we can work together at a deeper level when we understand one another and their perspectives. It can really fun. Particularly, when we include social time that helps us learn more about our colleagues.

Making time to talk about behaviours for high performance works so much better when we are in-person. If you are involved in bringing teams together at off-sites or internal conferences, you can add more value to your people and organisation by more purposefully making time to:

1. Learn about one another - Most social time in organisations tends to encourage people to hang out with those they know. Be conscious about introducing new people to one another and having discussions that get beyond the superficial. This can be done by making it safe to be vulnerable with one another to discuss failures or stressful times in our lives. Research shows that when we understand how people deal with stress, it helps us trust them more. We need to know people's triggers and how they deal with challenges.

2. Make time to learn together - Take the time to learn more about the people side of work. Consider bringing in a facilitator with a different perspective to show you the benefits of true collaboration and get you working and talking together at a different level. A great facilitator should be able to provide you with a new frame to have a shared understanding of behaviours, so you can have richer conversations and new perspectives on leadership. After all, you don't know what you don't know. For a leadership team that can be disastrous.

3. Discuss behaviours important for your success - Get deep and address key opportunity areas and behaviours most important to your success. When you have discussions that deep dive into your leadership values you will be quite surprised at what you unearth - not only as a team, but as individuals.

In most organisations, there are few opportunities to get together and really understand one another well. Making time and space to have more meaningful discussions, not only reduces silo-thinking, it also improves how people feel about one another. It helps unite a team together, even teams that have been together for a long time or get along well. It really works towards maintaining the performance of your team and making your off-site more memorable. 

That's where I can help. If you want to know more about the programs I run at off-sites or internal conference, download my off-site flyer here or contact me using this form.


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