As a busy leader, do you miss out on opportunities to connect with your team?
With little time available, it’s easy to reduce your contact to brief progress updates before rushing back to work. In the long run, the lack of personal contact is demoralising and damages your team’s ability to perform.
I believe the answer lies in changing your focus to make more of your existing contact time.
Recently, I was working with a client with exactly this problem. Rushing around at 100 mph, he had no time to have conversations with his team. His meetings became shorter and shorter, until the only topic of conversation was, ‘where are you up to with project X?’
He explained it felt very robotic. Once the progress updates had been received, the meeting was over. There was no human connection at all.
As we spoke, it was clear my client recognised the negative effect this situation was having on his team. As the meetings focused entirely on progress updates, he knew he’d lost touch with who they were as individuals. He was spending precious contact time discussing updates when he really wanted to understand more about them, discuss any concerns, and support them to improve and develop.
To my client, it felt like there was no going back. However, as a leader it was his focus on projects rather than people that had created this situation. A change of focus could create a new dynamic and improve relationships within the team.
The 3 ’P’s Model by Michael Bungay Stanier is a really valuable a framework for directing the focus of a conversation. Using this model, a leader can help the team member decide which aspect of a challenge is at the heart of a challenge they’re working through. The challenge might be centred on:
Stanier suggests the ideal opening question in a conversation is, “What’s on your mind?”
When the team member has responded, he suggest you follow with, “there are three different facets of this situation: the project side, the people side and the patterns of behaviour. Where would you like to start?”
This approach models ideal coaching behaviour, where the team member is allowed to explore the concern in whichever way feels most relevant to them. There is no need to go in a specific order, just allow the team member to take ownership of where to focus, before moving on to the next ‘P’.
After our session, my client went away to have a go with this new technique. He shared back that most conversations started with ‘project’ as the focus, as this felt the most comfortable for the team member. But with the structure of the model, he was able to move on to the next ‘P’, taking the conversation to a deeper level. They were able to explore their relationship with the people identified and how they could be contributing to the difficulty. Most importantly, the model moved the conversation towards patterns of behaviour the team member wanted to change.
What my client discovered was that time wasn’t the real issue. By deliberately changing the focus of the conversation, he was able to spend quality time with his team, not just time.
Leaders feel they have no time as they rush from one task to the next and challenges are thrown at them from every angle. What suffers most is their team, because it feels there’s no time to connect at a personal level.
The 3 ‘P’s model helps you involve team members in the conversations and lets them share their concerns while feeling supported by a leader who is focused on them as individuals and curious to learn more.
Shifting the focus of your meetings from progress to people turns robotic updates into much deeper conversations about the things that matter most to the person dealing with those concerns, without taking any more time.