Matt Blair

Matt Blair

I read that you learn more from a poor example than from a correct one. I don't believe this but that means my site will be a success.

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Shelter In Place

Back when we were all the office together, it was pretty easy as a manager to get a feel for how the team was doing. Are folks getting along? Are folks stressed? Does everyone have the right balance of work? With folks all around you, it was pretty easy to drop in on a conversation, take someone to lunch, or grab a coffee and talk.

These small encounters gave you a chance to make sure your team was running efficiency, it also gave your team a chance to speak to you as a human being outside of formal settings. Usually that level of shared vunerability led to better, more fulfilling conversations in the following 1:1’s.

With the traditional office gone, all of the luxurious interactions managers had when we shared physical space are gone. Given we have none of the in-person tools for building trust with our teams that we’ve had developed over the years, what could we do?

I started a new job 9 days before shelther in place, so I didn’t have much time to meet my team or get to know them. I noticed quickly that the level of trust and sharing wasn’t where I expected it to be. So what did I do?

Overshare (a bit)

I’m a relatively private person. I don’t like to talk about my personal life in group settings. However, to build trust with a group, many studies have shown that showing trust in someone helps them to trust you. One way you can do this is by confiding small details about your life with them.

Would you tell your teams that you and your partner had a fight? No. You don’t want to overshare or make them uncomfortable.

However, details of your life you normally wouldn’t broadcast, you could share those in an attempt to be a bit vunerable and build closeness with your team. Things like:

  • Whether you’vee been sleeping well or not
  • How your pets are doing
  • Projects you’ve accomplished or failed to accomplish
  • How you’re dealing with being remote (or not dealing with it)

Some moments of vunerability allow your teams to get to know you, and hopefully feel comfortable enough to be themselves around you as well.

Be more prescriptive in getting to know them

I found with my move to remote working that 1:1’s, even once a week, wasn’t enough to get to know my team on any appreciable level.

So I had to be very prescriptive in my approach. Not only breaking up 1:1’s into a format where I could “force” organic conversation.

A normal format I’ve been following that has worked for me, in a 30 minute 1/1:

  • 10 min: Personal chit-chat
  • 10 min: Whatever is on their agenda
  • 10 min: Whatever is on my agenda/requesting feedback/etc

If you’re looking for questions to ask, my co-worker Cyriel Dikoume created this great site with 1:1 prompts if you ever get stuck with nothing to say or ask.

Make more time for them

If you’re being prescriptive with your 1:1’s, you might find that you still don’t have enough time to cover everything you want, such as career development. If you find this is the case, schedule recurring time to talk about the specific issues that you find are getting short-changed. For me, I have a dedicated time slot for career development outside of my regular 1:1 time as I felt that wasn’t getting the time and attention it deserved.

Set reminders to yourself

One last thing I’ve found useful: setting regular reminders to be human with your team. Whether that’s thanking them for their work, checking in on their family and friends, or writing birthday cards or celebrating work anniversaries, it’s nice to take the worry out of remembering to appreciate your team for the great work they’re doing.

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