Spending Time with Staff

By now, most people have heard or read the research observation, “Employees don’t leave their companies, they leave their boss or supervisor,” or some variation on that theme. Recently, I was talking with a colleague, who described how he manages his workplace relationships. As I thought about the conversation later, I was concerned that he was not spending enough individual time with his employees.

An old leadership saying came to mind: “The better we know someone and the more we like what we know, the more we will want to do and even enjoy doing for that person.” In many ways, we know a person through their openness. It is a good thing and an antidote to arrogance and self-importance.

In my experience, leaders should share at least six important messages that communicate openness with their employees:

  1. Who you are
  2. What you stand for
  3. What you are asking them to do
  4. What you are not asking them to do
  5. What you will do for or with them
  6. What you will not do for or with them

    1. Who you are

People are curious and want to know about you, who you are and what makes you tick. So as not to be misleading, I am not talking about intimate or personal matters that are out of place in a work environment. It is, however, certainly appropriate to share things, such as interests, hobbies, and favorite TV show or YouTube channel. Often, staff want to know how long you have been working at the company and what position you held previously. Remember that we are all unique, but it can be discouraging to work for a boss who has a closed off personality

  1. What you stand for

In a larger sense, employees will appreciate knowing your values, but remember—you need to practice what you preach. Be up front with your practices, such as treating others with respect, giving second chances, disliking gossip and meeting timelines. Don’t put staff members in the position of guessing what’s important to you. They may guess wrong. Be as constructive as you can.

  1. What you are asking them to do

As a guiding principle, keep in mind that you must be willing to do what you ask your employees to do. This can vary from coming to work on time and following office or site rules, to clarification with respect to job duties. This is also the time you make clear—if it matters—how certain things are done, rather than simply meeting a particular deadline. Staff are more productive and confident if they know their job expectations.

  1. What you are not asking them to do

Be clear on your honesty and transparency standards, including not asking staff to do things that don’t pass the smell test. This area of concern also includes tasks that employees may not be permitted to do by company policy—signing certain documents with your name, for example. Other things that fall into this category are pressuring employees to give to a charity, attend certain events during off-work time or work with a bully employee.

  1. What you will do for or with them

What we say to employees may be interpreted as a promise, so keeping our word is essential to harmonious relationships. The most successful leaders attend to matters, such as welcoming the ideas of employees, listening to them, giving them feedback and helping them grow. It also includes helping them with a specific tasks or assignments as appropriate or important. Always do what you can to support them.

  1. What you will not do for or with them

What’s included here can also vary individual by individual and certainly by circumstances. Perhaps the most obvious point to be made is that while you may show an employee how to accomplish a certain task, you will not be doing the work the employee should be doing. Another matter often overlooked is that you will not handle problems that you may be having with another employee. Finally, do not attempt to be a best friend to employees. It doesn’t work.

The above six messages can surely be expanded upon. My purpose in sharing is to stimulate your thought in this area. The six messages discussed are not meant to be given as brief speeches or one big speech in, for instance, a new employee orientation meeting. Rather the thought items described above should be discussed at the appropriate times and in appropriate ways.



Proverbs 12:15 (NLT)

Fools think their own way is right,
but the wise listen to others.


Can't Not Do

Think Again

Adam Grant, PhD (Viking, 2021) 

Adam Grant’s Think Again is an excellent and very readable book about thinking and rethinking. An organizational psychologist, Grant earned his PhD from the University of Michigan. He is an excellent researcher and thought provocateur.

The book pivots around the idea that while good thinking and intelligence are vital to adaptability and problem-solving in today’s world, “The ability to rethink and unlearn may be even more important.”

As would be expected, Think Again is based on well-researched, evidence-based management principles. Along the way, he unfolds the dangers of three mindsets that tempt us all: 1) the preacher – when we don’t examine our beliefs, but seek instead to protect our “sacred beliefs through sermonizing,” 2) the prosecutor – when we focus on the flaws in other people’s thinking in order to prove them wrong, and 3) the politician – when we spend more time campaigning and lobbying for our particular point of view rather than spending any time reflecting on the accuracy of our own perspectives.

I found the book especially thought-provoking, particularly in the context of today’s societal polarization, whether it was a discussion of individual rethinking, interpersonal rethinking or the need for collective rethinking.

Shared below are some insights that have stayed with me:

  • “We listen to views that make us feel good, instead of ideas that make us think”
  • “The curse of knowledge is that it closes our minds to what we don’t know.”
  • “When we lack the knowledge and skills to achieve experience, we sometimes lack the knowledge and skills to judge competence.”
  • “Research suggests that the more frequently we make fun of ourselves, the happier we tend to be.”
  • “We learn more from people who challenge our thought process than those who affirm our conclusions. Strong leaders engage their critics and make themselves stronger; weak leaders silence their critics and make themselves weaker.”
  • “Agreeableness is about seeking social harmony, not cognitive consensus. It is possible to disagree without being disagreeable.”
  • “Don’t be a logic bully.”
  • “People gain humility when they reflect on how different circumstances could have led them to different beliefs.”
  • “Binary biased in action – when one presumes the world is divided into two sides—believers and non-believers. As a result, only one side can be right because there is only one truth.”

I trust the above gleanings will whet your appetite to read Think Again.

Until next time,

Art Dykstra

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