Can't Build A Relationship? You Can Still Manage…Seriously.

Marisa Keegan Employee Coaching, Marisa Keegan

Three or four years ago I was leading a coaching session with a Software Developer turned Manager who had just received his Manager Effectiveness Score from our annual employee survey. He was upset because even though he knew he wasn

“t very good at forming strong relationship with others, it hurt to see that his employees were feeling this disconnect too. He told me that he felt like he just simply didn”t have the charisma it was going to take to lead a team and he felt he was missing some of the core manager strengths that would innately lead him to score higher on questions like, “My manager cares about me as a person”.

The truth of the matter is that this guy was quiet, technical, and focused on being incredibly productive. In his mind, building relationships wasn”t the most important aspect of life. But that didn”t mean he couldn”t be a great manager. It just meant that we needed to find some ways to encourage him to interact more with his employees. If you or someone you know struggles with the relationship piece of managing some of the ideas below might help:

  • Many people enjoy the simple act of learning something new. That was the case with this manager. He felt passionate, excited and productive when he was picking up new bits of information. Because of this I encouraged him to focus on seeing how many new things he could learn from his employees – things they were passionate about. We set a goal that once a week he would ask a different employee to teach him something. Through the simple gesture of asking people to teach the manager about something the manager was engaged because he was learning something new and the employees felt that the manager cared about them.
  • Spend time with employees outside the office. It still blows my mind that some employers have rules preventing managers from spending time together outside work. This policy does nothing but create silos between management and the employees they serve. Managers in my companies have always been encouraged to get out of the office with their employees. They can go to lunch, coffee, the bowling alley, the local skating rink – I don”t care where they go. When employees hang out with each other outside the office they tend to build stronger relationships that carry over to work.
  • Mark your calendar to remember to give positive feedback. It might sound mechanical but all of us need reminders to tell those around us that they are doing a good job. I”m not advising that we should give fake positive feedback. What I am saying is, is that if a manager is reminded to catch someone doing something awesome that day they will begin to strengthen the bond they have with their team.

Over the months following my initial coaching session with this employee he began using these strategies. He stopped focusing so much on this pressure of building relationships and started enjoying what his team could teach him, catching them doing great things, and spending time with them outside work.

Six months later, when the next Manager Effectiveness Survey came out, his scores had increased dramatically for the question, “My manager cares about me as a person”.

Are there areas in your job where you struggle and would benefit from a simple shift in the way you attack the problem? Hit me in the commetns…

Marisa Keegan

Marisa is a Culture Coach for small and quickly growing organizations trying to establish the infrastructure required to create a company full of passionate, motivated, and engaged employees. She has held culture and engagement roles for two nationally recognized great places to work, founded the research and networking group Culture Fanatics, and is an industry recognized blogger. She lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband and twin boys and is looking forward to the day she can bike across the country to raise money for MS research. @marisakeegan.