By Tracy Brower
You want to be a successful leader—especially in times when you may be remote or more distanced from your team. But how? The most important attributes to engender support from team members and enhance commitment are responsiveness and accessibility. When team members can get in touch with you, and when you get back to them in a timely way, it is a powerful path toward engagement, commitment and performance.
Responsive leadership motivates commitment and performance
But while it may seem simple, it’s not easy. After all, with so much on your plate, how can you be responsive and accessible without being “always on” yourself? How can you be available to team members but still have a life?
Why It Matters
First, know that your accessibility and responsiveness are proven to matter—regardless of whether you’re responding in person or via digital means. Investing yourself in getting these right will payoff. Specifically, in one study of almost 5,000 employees globally, visibility and accessibility in leaders were correlated with confidence and performance in team members. In another analysis, responsiveness in leaders was found to have impact because it communicated trust, respect and empathy toward team members. People also felt safer—like they would receive attention when they needed it—when leaders were more accessible. These in turn helped drive performance. Leader responsiveness also created the conditions for reciprocity—situations in which people are motivated to contribute more when they receive more.
So how can you be responsive and accessible? The answer has to do with both mindset and mechanics. Both are important.
In terms of mindset, your perspective is important. One of my colleagues (an especially responsive leader herself) says her grandmother has a gift for making each grandchild feel valued and unique. Great leadership is like this as well. While no one should play favorites, it’s powerful for each team member to feel they matter and know you appreciate them and their contribution.
Empower people. When you give people responsibility and trust them to do good work, you won’t have to be as involved in the work they’re doing. Your time will be spent coaching, developing and making decisions where your perspective or position are most critical. You should set guardrails—for example spending more than a certain amount of money or which key topics require your input or decision-making—but within those boundaries, set people free. By not being too deeply in the details, you’ll have more time to be accessible where you’re needed most.
Know people. Another mindset to help you be more responsive is to know your people well. When you have a good sense of what motivates each employee and what their unique needs are, you’re able to tune your messages. You’ll be more responsive when you’re able to meet employees where they are and provide the information or direction they need most.
Trust people. Assume good intentions. When people reach out to you, believe they have a good reason for doing so. When you respect the team member and value that they’ve reached out, you’ll be able to respond in the most meaningful way.
In addition to having the right mindset, as an accessible leader you also want to have great tactics to manage your time and priorities, whether you’re in the office together or working remote. Another of my colleagues (one of the most responsive leaders with whom I’ve worked) says his productivity strategies help him stay available. These are the tactics which allow you to be open to team members without being constantly “on.” Here are 7 suggestions:
Hold one-on-ones. Schedule regular meetings with each staff member. Do this more frequently when people are new and then less frequently—but still regularly—when they are more experienced. The key is to have these times set up proactively and for the long term. Having regular check-ins—in person or via video—is helpful because when things come up for you or for team members, you know you have time coming up to discuss them. Of course, if things are more urgent, you can each reach out immediately, but regular sessions communicate a sense of priority and accessibility to team members.
Open your calendar. Open your calendar to your team members and ask them to open theirs to you (they can still mark some things private, of course). This transparency breeds trust because it fosters openness and helps with productivity. It allows you to respect and make good use of team members’ time because you can see which private appointments to avoid and when time is open for a connection. In turn, team members can see your schedule, and find available time if they need to check in outside of pre-set one-on-ones.
Be on time. One of my first bosses, Russ, was intense about timeliness. There were few things that would irk him but being late for a meeting was one. For him, being on time was a powerful way to communicate you respected him, his time and his other priorities. And he did the same for you.
Plan your day. At the beginning of each day, set your priorities. Make a short list of what must be done in your professional and personal life. Use an A, B, C system. The A’s are on your list for today, the B’s tomorrow, and C’s for this week or month.
Do it now. Another great way to be productive, and therefore more available when team members need you is to make decisions and process issues in the moment. Don’t be impulsive, of course, but as much as possible, make considered decisions in the moment. In addition, if a team member needs your input, provide it when they ask for it, rather than putting it off for another meeting. If it requires research or deeper consideration, schedule it for a future time. But in general, do things in the immediate term when it’s appropriate to the topic or question at hand. This approach will help your effectiveness and therefore your time availability. It will also help you facilitate others’ forward movement and ensure you’re not a bottleneck.
Confirm. With all the email traffic, you may tend to avoid emails which close the loop or thank people. But these small messages can be a big deal. Follow up and offer gratitude. This reinforces that you’re attentive to your employee and you value connecting with them.
Being responsive and accessible matter a lot to effective leadership, and they make distance less detrimental when you’re remote. They contribute significantly to positive relationships with team members and to their commitment—to you and their work. Consider your mindset and be sure you are empowering people, trusting them and getting to know what their unique needs are. Also pay attention to tactics that will help you be more productive and, therefore, more responsive. Hold one-on-ones, create calendar transparency, be on time, plan and prioritize, make decisions in the moment and say, “thank you.” These mechanics will help you add value and build relationships with your team members, fostering motivation and commitment over time.
This article originally appeared at https://www.financialexpress.com/education-2/how-artificial-intelligence-will-change-hr-in-2020/1835699/