Slow Conversations with Employees to Build Engagement
I recently read a HBR blog post by Anthony Tjan, CEO, Managing Partner and Founder of the venture capital firm Cue Ball and co-author of the New York Times bestseller Heart, Smarts, Guts, and Luck about the notion of having a slow conversation. This was juxtaposed against some recent conversations I have had with seniors leaders who demand quick, 30 second bites of information so they can manage their time effectively. In fact, one senior leader told me, that in his leadership team meetings, he has to make an impression in 30 seconds or everybody stops paying attention to him. While I understand the demands placed on leaders and managers in organizations it seems that this time burden has gotten out of control.
What I think is most important is the impact this time process has on relationships among managers and their direct reports. Or even the relationships among their peers. Employees want to see their leaders (just showing up and being present is half the battle), being fully present (that’s the focus of your mind) with them, and to feel understood and cared about (this is a central component of employee engagement). So how can an employee feel that their boss understands them, cares about them, and takes their perspective into mind, when he can only have 30 seconds of her time before her eyes avert, she looks at or even answers her cell phone, and gives the impression she’s just itching to move on?
What is called for is the “slow conversation.” It reminds me of the Slow Food Movement and its impact on cooking and eating food. Founded by Carlo Petrini in 1986 it now has supporters in 130 countries and its goal is to promote the enjoyment of food, the flavors, the people growing and making the food, and to defend against poor quality and food adulteration. It is the a way to combat the incursion of fast food into our diets which promotes poor health.
The case can be made that the speed of contact with leaders contributes to low engagement, poor working relationships and low job satisfaction and ultimately a lowered bottom line just as fast food contributes to obesity and poor health.
Leaders, it’s time to fight back against the pressures of doing things über fast. It is challenging but you will find that spending the time connecting with all those around you in a meaningful manner (and no it doesn’t mean you have to spend inordinate amounts of time listening to everybody) you will find that it actually saves you time. And it will help you have a more satisfying experience in your leadership role.
More time, better relationships, and a more engaged workforce. What could be better!!