If you want to build relationships with your employees, the answer is simple: engagement with them.
You build professional relationships with people who report directly to you by frequently interacting with them, demonstrating trust, coaching and ultimately showing that you have their backs. Some tactical things you can do:
1. Have monthly 1–1 meetings
A 1–1 meeting with each person reporting directly to you is an excellent opportunity to build a relationship. During this meeting, you’ll be checking in on their progress, giving advice, answering big questions about the company direction and just learning more about their lives.
2. Reply to their weekly status reports
Each of your team members should be submitting a weekly status report that outlines their top objectives, concerns and plans for the following week. These get emailed to the group using a tool like Weekly Update. Make sure you reply to each one, commending the person’s progress and giving feedback on their concerns.
3. Host an engaging weekly team meeting
You should start off each weekly team meeting with a game of highs and lows, where each person shares the best and worst aspect of their weekend. It’s a fun way to learn about each others lives and wake up on Monday morning. This also helps to go beyond the surface level and really get to know each team member’s interests.
4. Set goals that are realistic
Your relationship will get deeper with respect as your team collaborates to set realistic goals. One of the worst things a manager can do is set unrealistic goals without the team’s buy-in and then act punitively when direct reports inevitably fail to deliver. If you do goal setting effectively, you’ll build real trust with your team.
5. Compensate people fairly
You’ll have a closer relationship with the team when you take a genuine interest in their well-being, and a big one is compensation. Go to bat to get the budget needed to compensate your team fairly. Document a process for doing compensation reviews and be up-front about the company’s timing and budget. Your team would rather hear the bad news of “we don’t have budget to do any raises right now” rather than radio silence.
6. Define an advancement plan for each team member
Each member of your team should have a documented plan for advancement. If they succeed this year, what are potential new responsibilities and roles they may be able to take on next year? People appreciate when their manager is actually thinking about their career progression. It feels like you as the manager are “in their corner,” helping them fight to grow. Show a path for each person to go from individual contributor to a senior leader at the organization.
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