Regular readers of this blog will know that one of my leadership strategies is to create an ‘emotionally-safe’ working environment for team members.
Top performances are not possible when team members feel under any threat that blocks their trust, confidence and creativity.
One of the elements of creating an emotionally-safe environment for your team is to encourage open and honest discussion.
Give team members opportunities to speak about what they love about working at your practice, and what they don’t love. Ask them what motivates them and what leaves them feeling depleted or drained.
If you do not have regular staff reviews, conducting one-on-one discussions with each team member every six months can have a powerful impact. But, it must be done thoughtfully to work. Here are some practical steps for you to follow.
Assure the team member’s privacy
Sometimes, the reason the team member is not putting her best foot forward is a co-worker. For the situation to be resolved, you need to discover what has actually been going on for your team member, not what you think has been going on! However, there will not be open sharing of information with you if there is any chance that word will get back to the problem co-worker.
Also, personal issues may be temporarily affecting a team member’s performance. You can only help overcome this if there is trust and confidence that you will not share the details of the personal issues or dilemma.
I have witnessed many performance reviews, and too many of these have the owner/manager doing most of the talking. Team feedback is different. This discussion process is each team member’s chance to be heard and raise issues that are challenging or difficult.
Remember, you are seeking to understand the truth of what is actually happening for each team member. So, avoid interrupting and show through your body language that you are deeply interested in hearing the whole story. And indeed, you should be interested, because only when you hear the truth can you discover the secrets that will unlock top performance.
Each of your team members is at a different level of awareness, of understanding, and of consciousness. I’m sure you have seen many people who look like they are half asleep in the workplace! If a team member is having trouble in a particular area, do not diminish these concerns because you would be able to overcome the problem easily yourself. If it is important to the team member, it becomes important to you.
Let the team member know what action the practice can take to solve any problems that are raised. If you need time to contemplate and consider different options of action, let the team member know that you will meet again in a couple of days and share your thoughts. Asking the team member if she is happy with the outcome will build trust in you. And if you are a leader that is trusted, you will unlock amazing resources in your team.
Whenever someone goes out on a limb for you, by sharing with you difficult issues, it is important to express your thanks. The team member could always take the easy road and not share her thoughts about areas that need management, so acknowledging her contribution will create real rewards for you.
A crucial role of practice owners and managers is to solve each team member’s problems that are practice related. You can only do this if you know what these problems are.
Opening up safe communication with your team is not creating more work for you. It is ensuring you are discovering the secrets to the kind of working environment where your team members can become great performers. And even better, they will want to stay with you, to help you build the practice of your dreams.
For further aspects of this issue, I invite you to read my thoughts on ‘emotionally-safe’ working environments, and my hints on what you can do to create your own in one of my past blogs, Amazing Benefits of Leading Your Team to Safe Places.
I invite you to call me if you want to develop your skills in handling your most difficult challenges: Excellent leaders are willing to invest in developing their leadership capabilities. I can coach you so that your one-on-one discussions are both enjoyable and valuable for your practice.