Managing in 2020: Why It’s Important to Get Curious
By: Stephanie Lang
While leading the development of our Management 101 course, Buddy to Boss, I have given a lot of thought to what it means to be an effective manager in today’s climate. As a result, I’ve come to believe that the most essential responsibility of a supervisor is to create an inclusive environment for employees. We know that people do their best work when they’re calm, they feel safe, and they can be who they are. When you create this environment, it’s turnkey – people have the freedom to think, take risks, and pursue action that outpaces the competition.
Here are a couple of actions you can take to create an inclusive environment for your team:
1. Consider Each Person’s Perspective is Reality
The rapid spread of the pandemic is a reminder of how globalized our world has become. As a pathogen spreads around the world at what can seem to be an unbelievable pace, so do people, experiences, and ideas.
As a supervisor, the people on your team have different life experiences and those experiences shape and color perspectives. These experiences can include: where they grew up, where they’ve lived, where they’ve worked, different people they’ve met throughout their life, and different historical events they’ve experienced in their life – Armstrong landing on the moon or the ‘92 Los Angeles riots.
So, when people share an insight or bring up a concern, it’s important to consider that their perspective is reality. Instead of dismissing an idea or concern because it may seem moot to you, lean in, get curious, and listen. What is the person seeing that you’re not? What are they experiencing that you’re not? Are they exposing a potential blind spot that could help you?
When you lean in and listen, people are not only doing work they like, but they are more loyal, passionate and will go over and above for you.
2. Understand and Accept How Your Team Members Do Their Best Work
This second action centers on accepting how your team members process information and how they do their work in the way that’s most natural for them.
As a manager, you have your way of doing things. You have your preferred working style, communication method preferences, work location preferences, and your peak energy period – the time of day when you have the most brainpower to do your best work. It’s important to recognize that some people on your team may be different than you. In order for them to do their best work, they may execute their work differently.
For example, they might prefer working in a space that’s noisy, they might prefer walking meetings, and their peak energy period might be at night while yours is in the morning.
To understand and accept how your team does their best work, talk with them. You can start by asking the following questions:
- What is your working style?
- For the different types of work that we do together, when is it best to communicate in person, via phone, via email, via instant message, etc.?
- Where do you do your best work?
- What types of meetings work best for you?
- When is your peak energy period?
By asking these questions, you’re inviting your employees to shape team norms based on the foundation of understanding.
3. Invite Them In
The pressure of what’s happening outside of work can affect people’s personal lives, which can affect their work and ability to focus. And based on current events, we can only assume that this dynamic is here to stay. With this shift, the question now is how do you create a place where everyone on your team feels calm and can focus?
One way is to open the door and invite them in. Invite them to share when something is bothering them or affecting their ability to concentrate. Knowing that each person has different life experiences means that any number of current happenings could impact them and throw them off their game.
There are two positive results of inviting your team members to be open and honest with you:
- You gain understanding of the situation and can lead from a place of empathy. This makes the person feel supported and emotionally safe to do their work.
- You gain understanding of the situation and you may have the ability to help create a solution. When you and your team member work together, this builds trust, which helps the person feel supported and centered to do their work.
In order to invite them in, start by having a conversation. Here are a couple of ways you can open the conversation:
- How are you doing today?
- I know there’s a lot going on right now, is there anything you’d like to talk about?
- What’s been on your mind lately?
In turbulent times such as these, I encourage you to have these conversations and see what unfolds. With the increased speed of information and communication, taking the time to be real and human with your team becomes even more important.
Inclusivity is beyond differences that we can see – it’s about being inclusive of how people think, process information, conduct their work, and are impacted by outside events. With the increased speed of globalization, it is important to keep the topic of diversity and inclusion top of mind. So far 2020 has proven it’s more than a box to check, it’s a call to action.