Training Opportunities

Manager Minute – Social distancing and employee retention
July 16, 2020

The pandemic has changed how we interact with one another in work settings and will, in many ways, place a barrier between leaders and their teams. A link to the full article that provides the follwing material, by Fast Company, is found at the end of this Daily News post.

Consider, for example, the last time you spoke with your employees face-to-face. If it was recently, then you were likely at least six feet apart and minimizing the length and frequency of your interactions.

There was, and will continue to be, an invisible barrier between you and your team.

When you consider that leading a team effectively results from the leader’s ability to build trust and rapport with others, a barrier, real or perceived, creates new obstacles.

The lack of physical interaction will be yet another barrier, even for those who will not return to an office environment, but instead will be leading a team that works virtually.

How will leaders break through and maintain or improve their level of trust with their team when these barriers exist?

Over the past several years, the article’s author managed a virtual team, which, at one point, consisted of 20 team members, all living in different parts of the country, working remotely.

The author spent considerable time traveling; there were many long phone calls, Zoom meetings, and periodic personal face-to-face meetings, albeit without the physical distancing limitations we have today.

These interactions all helped to communicate effectively, but even combined, they did little to build trust. It wasn’t until the author began using “personalized experiences” that he began to experience a shift in how employees communicated, both with him and with others on the team.

It began with something simple, like sending a handwritten thank-you card for no reason other than to say, “Thank you for a job well done.” The response to such a simple approach was powerful, with employees often calling immediately upon receiving the cards to say thank you.

Fortunately, personalizing appreciation does not have to be time-consuming, although to get started, you may want to schedule time in your calendar to ensure it happens.

Begin by considering the individual.

What’s something unique about them that you appreciate? Possibly it’s their willingness to speak up in meetings, how they recognize other members of the team for their efforts, or a small task they completed for you that was helpful.

Then consider how best you might offer this appreciation in a personalized manner. You could write a note on a card that specifically mentions what you appreciate, or you can recognize them in a meeting, allowing their peers to share in the appreciation.

Whatever way you choose to recognize them, make sure you balance your efforts across the team. It might be easy to come up with something you appreciate about your star performers, and more difficult for others. But when you invest the time in finding something unique you appreciate about everyone, you bring the collective level of trust and rapport up across the team.

The author recalls receiving a personalized card in the mail from a past boss, with no rhyme or reason as to why it was sent. On the inside of the card, the boss wrote, “Shawn, thanks for all that you do for us!”

That little card still sits upon the shelf in the author’s office as a reminder of how simple, personalized experiences can go a long way toward building trust and rapport.

Sure, the idea of sending a personalized card or message of appreciation isn’t new. That said, it also isn’t a strategy that many leaders use on a consistent basis with their teams. Statistics from several institutions have been telling us this for years.

So, at a time when we all have physical and mental barriers being introduced between us, it’s important that, as leaders, we find new ways to build trust and rapport between ourselves and our employees. Demonstrating appreciation through personalized experiences is just one, albeit simple, way that can ensure we maintain trust, rapport, and engagement.

Excerpts taken from:

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