Many leaders think they know where their people are, based on where they are physically and where they are in their projects.
But if you don’t know where your people are in their mind, in that hidden place of thinking and feeling, then you don’t know where your people are at all.
It’s not a smart strategy for leaders to rely on the old ‘open door policy’ which relies on others seeking you out.
Particularly since many of us are leading leaders or high performers, who are usually very independent, dislike anything that could be perceived as whining, and take an unhealthy satisfaction from carrying a superhuman load on their shoulders alone.
They would rather soldier on until burnout than come through your open door to talk about it.
So understanding that talented people don’t always know how to tell you what they need, means we have to get better at regularly seeking them out to see “where” they are.
And often asking the typical ‘how’s it going’ check-in isn’t enough either. Busy people’s heads are full of activity making it difficult for them to know what to tell you that is meaningful.
Therefore, we have to get good at using effective doorway questions that open up “locating” conversation (especially with the tough-to-help folks) that will invite you into their heads and allow you to figure out how to give them what they need to get where they want to go, or at the very least to feel met, heard, and understood right where they are.
Here are a few.
What’s been on your mind lately?
What do you need?
What can I help you with?
What’s been pissing you off lately?
What improvements can I make around here?
How is your team doing?
What are the small wins you’re pleased about?
What’s taking up the bulk of your time right now?
Are you experiencing any roadblocks that are making you or your team feel less effective than you could be?
What questions can I answer about anything?
What’s been feeling most heavy for you lately in your role?
How are things going for you in life in general besides just work?
Armed with exploratory intent and questions like these, your people will invite you in and walk you around the living room of their minds. Where only trusted folk can tread, and the only place you can really understand who they are and how they think.
All of which makes you a more potent leader for them, helping you stay connected to them with even less time and effort over time. That open door will get used more often.
When we proactively go find our people like this, trust and loyalty grow exponentially, and so does job fulfillment.
Rarely do we want to leave a job and boss who gets us, works hard for us, and shows it by their “come find me” actions.
Don’t assume you know where your people are, or that they will take the initiative to tell you.
Seek and you shall find, often more than you would ever gain through traditional update-based meetings or 1:1s.
Find where they are living in their minds and you’ll uncover the gems you need to bring true value-add, to solve challenges you didn’t even know existed, to help them and their team become even more successful, and to appreciate the simple pleasure of just being human together.
– Coach Faith