It's interesting to hear about the ways in which managers view their team members. In my experience the views that have passed my way have been anywhere from 'my team members are invaluable and I couldn't do my job without them' to 'not sure who they are but they are here to do a job and make me look good' and everything in between.
Essentially, to managers their teams are assets but the question is, how much do they really know about those assets and does it matter?
I believe that it does matter because after all, people - team members or otherwise - get a great sense of being valued when another person knows and remembers what is important to them in their lives and careers. We've all seen this in action right? And many of us will have been on the receiving end of a comment or remark which demonstrated that the person talking, has taken the time to seek and retain the thing(s) that are important to us. No doubt about it, it feels good (so long as it's not the spooky, stalker type person you've been trying to avoid).
But to get to know someone successfully and with integrity takes skill and some investment in your time, Get it right and you'll reap the benefits tenfold in return. Did anyone say it was going to be easy? No, but read on regardless.
If businesses are to survive and thrive in today's competitive and cutthroat working environment, their managers and leaders need to possess, or acquire, a point of difference that stretches beyond product offerings and externally focused services. No organisation is successful without people. Yet people are mobile and can flit from organisation to organisation - or manager to manager, at a drop of a hat. So making it easy for people to want to follow you, support you, do a great job for you and most importantly stay with you, is a very strong and effective point of difference if achieved.
So 'what' and 'how' I hear you say.
Glad you asked. Here are three ways to make a start:
1 Know WHO they are
Seems straightforward right? Wrong.
Establishing who someone in your team is takes more that just asking the question 'who are you'. And, I'm not sure about you but in my experience, asking this question of anyone is a sure fire way to draw that conversion to a halt tout-de-suit.
But what you would want to achieve would be to engage with them one on one and speak freely with them about yourself and ask them about themselves. In particular get to know about their family, what they do beyond working for you, their likes and dislikes. Do this at opportune moments (rather than adopt a stalker like stance), frequently and be authentically interested in them and you will soon form a picture of who they really are. So many times I hear managers say they never had the time to get to 'know' their team members after they have left them and they thought that "they loved it here and didn't think of leaving". Don't let this be you.
2 Know what they AREN'T saying
Give your full attention to the team member you are speaking to by being present in the conversation. Thinking about the five trillion things you've got to do or should be doing while you're speaking to them shows, so stop it. This is their time and you may miss out on valuable information and cues if you aren't focussed on what is being said and most importantly, what ISN'T being said.
So adopt a generous and mindful attitude towards the person you are listening to, by giving your full attention to them and you may be pleasantly surprised with the results.
3 Know Where THEIR Future Lies
Typically part of a managers or leaders role is to undertake workforce planning activities to ensure that they have what resources they need, when they need it. But all too often the members of their team who may be part of the plan, aren't consulted. Whilst there are no assurances that the plan will be executed as it is intended, it is vital that you are aware of where your team member feels that their future lies.
A great example of failure in this regard is succession planning. Succession or replacement plans are the most frequently anecdotalised (if that's a word) sets of data ever to exist. Sure, a plan is just that and there are no assurances but it is essential that people plans factor in the individual's plans - whether these lie with your organisation or not, as well as yours. All too often people managers place their heads in the sand and don't want to think about what would happen if their team members left them.
My advice? Pull that cranium from grainy stuff and ask them. Then be comfortable with the outcome and work this into your plan. More importantly, if 'present' in the conversation about their plans, you will establish if there are any critical interventions required to retain your key talent and also, anything that ISN'T being said...
Now that alone is worth ten minutes of mindfulness and a coffee and macaron with your team member.