Before kids, I loved naps. In the years since my daughters were born, daytime rest has all but disappeared from my life.
Because of that, I have fond memories of great naps from days gone by.
Here’s one: when I was in college, a close friend and mentor cancelled our regular appointment so we could each return to our dorm rooms and take a nap.
I met with Julie each week as part of a leadership development program. After discussing a list of my strengths and areas for growth, Julie and I created a plan. We made a commitment to meet weekly. Over two years, we never cancelled… except the day of the nap.
Why was the nap day so important that I remember it now, almost twenty years later?
Julie cared about me beyond a program or a to-do list. When we met that day, she could see that I felt very tired. She knew that what I needed REST more than I needed to complete our learning objectives that day.
This was an important lesson for me as a leader. In order to have maximum impact on the lives of those we lead, we need to value and engage them as whole people.
In today’s world of tight deadlines, narrow specialization, high technology, and conflicting demands, it is all too easy to treat people in an organization as if they were little more than job descriptions, as tools.
As a leader, valuing and engaging your followers means first knowing them and then interacting with them as whole people.
Getting to know people requires time and paying attention. To get to know your followers, join in casual conversation and ask good questions. As you relate to those you lead, listen carefully, not only to what they say, but also to what they don’t say. If they are sitting down, grab a chair and take a few minutes to talk. Maintain eye contact. Slow down for a moment and give them your undivided attention
Here are some things you might want know about your followers: What interests do they have outside of work? What do they enjoy doing on the weekends? What is their family life like? What are their hopes and dreams for the future? What challenges are they facing? What brings them joy?
It also helps to get a sense of your employees’ work habits: What time of day are they most productive? What projects are they most enthusiastic about? What are their least favorite tasks? What is their dream job?
It also helps to remember other details about people with whom we work closely. What’s their favorite spot for lunch? What is their work-day beverage of choice?
As we get to know those we lead, we can begin to share more than just our work with them. By engaging people beyond their job titles, we show we value them for who they are, not just what they do.
Letting People Know You
Reciprocity is important. As you get to know people, you also need to let them get to know you. Share your interests outside of work. Share struggles and challenges (when appropriate.) Let people know you beyond your position and job description.
Your impact will grow exponentially as your relationships grow. Interactions that may seem insignificant at the time — like Julie’s suggestion that I skip our meeting to take a nap — could become those learning moments that people remember forever.
Join the conversation here!
Have you ever had an unforgettable moment like the one I described? I would love to hear about it.
Also, how have others valued and engaged you as a whole person? In what way do you value and engage those you lead?
I look forward to your responses.
This was originally posted at Mountain State University LeaderTalk and is re-posted with permission.