Finding just a few minutes to connect with employees to demonstrate care, concern and interest can make a big impact.
As a parent, I often struggle to balance working full-time with raising three young children. My days often feel like a whirlwind of clients and workshops, and then I have to quickly shift into parenting mode as I prepare dinner, help with homework and get the kids to bed. The weekends are often filled with laundry, cleaning and house projects while I try to fit in building Legos or helping with that craft project. I frequently feel the “working-mom guilt” of not always being able to spend as much meaningful time with my kids during the week as I would like.
As much as it’s hard to balance it all, there are small things I try to do that can be impactful without taking much time. Sending them off to school with a hug, putting a note in their lunchboxes, kissing that boo-boo, greeting them when they come home with a smile and welcoming energy, and leaving a sticky note heart on their pillows at bedtime are all small ways I show them how much I love them. These things don’t take much time, but they can be impactful just the same.
One of the biggest struggles I hear about from executives and managers is the lack of time. Effective leadership requires the ability to create clarity for others, build relationships and coach teams toward results. It’s never been harder to be a leader than it is in today’s environment; employees have high expectations and want leaders who not only support them in everyday challenges, but who also invest in their development and professional success. So, how do you find time to get your work done and lead others effectively at the same time?
One of the most important responsibilities of a leader is “caretaking the culture,” and that takes time. In leadership roles, we need to shift from doing to leading—from fixing to facilitating. Our job is to get results by leading our team toward results. Yet many leaders still struggle to understand where to spend their time to get the results they need to be successful.
Examples of taking care of culture include providing meaningful feedback, creating connection with each employee, coaching and developing employees to their best performance and supporting them through challenges. Every relationship needs to be nurtured—trust, collaboration and cohesion are built over time. But while it’s important to carve out meaningful time with employees regularly, we should not overlook the power of the quick little leadership moments that can have a significant impact on cultivating relationships.
What do I mean by little leadership moments? They are the seemingly insignificant moments that foster relationships. There are many things leaders can do in under five minutes that have a big impact on their employees and teams.
Examples of little leadership moments:
- Sending a text or calling an employee to an employee to check in
- Sending an appreciation email to the team when a project is completed successfully
- Taking five minutes at the beginning of a team meeting to do a mini teambuilding exercise
- Saying “good morning” and asking about someone’s weekend
- Mailing a hand-written card to an employee’s home
- Asking about a sick relative
- Asking about an employee’s vacation plans
- Texting or emailing a message of encouragement
- Providing important feedback that will help the employee develop their skills
- Scheduling a Zoom “coffee break” with the team to just catch up (with no work agenda)
- Sending a small gift from Amazon to an employee who is working virtually
Although these actions are small, they can be impactful and demonstrate a care and concern for others as human beings. As leaders, it’s not always about spending a significant amount of time with our employees—it’s about making them feel significant in the time we spend.
Leadership is action. Leadership is not a position or role you occupy at the office. It’s a privilege and a responsibility to be a leader, in all moments, big and small.
While these small actions are not meant to replace other important leadership actions, such as managing performance, creating development plans, coaching an employee through a challenge or delegating and teaching, in the midst of a busy schedule, these moments matter.
There are no excuses. As leaders, we can find even a few minutes to connect with the people we lead and demonstrate care, concern and interest.
Leadership matters. Every moment matters, big and small.
Laurie Maddalena, MBA, CPCC, PHR, is a certified executive coach, leadership consultant and founder of CUES Supplier member Envision Excellence LLC in the Washington, D.C., area. Her mission is to create exceptional cultures by teaching leaders how to be exceptional. Maddalena facilitates management and executive training programs and team-building sessions and speaks at leadership events. Prior to starting her business, she was an HR executive at a $450 million credit union. Contact her at 240.605.7940 or firstname.lastname@example.org.