Managers: Supercharge Your Relationships with the Drive-By Conversation

on October 3, 2017

No matter the organization or industry, one thing is consistent in the business world – managers play a pivotal role in helping businesses thrive. They oversee day-to-day activities and they don’t just lead processes, they lead people. When they are doing the job right, they inspire their teams to live up to their potential, and the organization reaps the reward.

In order for managers to continually accelerate success, they have to hone one very specific skill: the ability to build great relationships. The connection between managers and team members will directly impact whether or not people go above and beyond for the business. But knowing the importance of building relationships isn’t necessarily the same as knowing how to do it. So many managers are being pulled in a million directions, in meetings, running from here to there that they just don’t see how to find the time to truly build the kinds of relationships that have the most impact.

As a result, employees sense the frenetic nature of their managers and end up steering clear unless there’s something really critical that needs attention. This breeds a relationship that’s mostly courteous but cursory without the depth and personal connection that can set the team up for real success. And, employees with time-starved managers who don’t invest in their relationships are probably also shying away from asking for direction or support — leaving them feeling disconnected, disengaged, and unlikely to put forth any discretionary effort. To compound the issue, managers who don’t make time to build relationships with their teams are actually making more work for themselves in the end.

But creating the manager-to-team member connection doesn’t have to take up more time. Hey managers: the secret is to make the time you already have work harder for you. A subtle shift can make all the difference.

The “Drive-By” Conversation

How often do you ask team members or colleagues questions like: “Hey, how’s it going?” “How’s that project coming along?” or “What’s going on?” These are common “drive-by” conversations. They’re cursory, gratuitous and in most cases, completely meaningless for the manager and for the employee.

Here’s the exciting part. By simply reframing the questions you ask, you can get truly useful information – and it can still happen in just a few minutes. By asking more specific and personalized questions, managers can build relationships during these drive-by conversations. The right questions elicit responses that provide valuable insight into what motivates a person. They reveal new coaching opportunities and open the floor for feedback or recognition. All of these things are part of the foundation for great relationships and prove that managers are invested in the team and care about the individuals and the work they are doing for the business.

Try transforming your daily drive-by conversations into more meaningful and engaging interactions with these questions:

  • What’s one thing that’s going really well for you right now?
  • Tell me how that project is going. What are you learning so far?
  • What’s one thing you’re struggling with right now?
  • What’s the one thing about your job that you enjoy most – what makes it all worthwhile?

If asking more probing questions during casual interactions feels unnatural at first, just be transparent. Tell your people you’re doing something new and you want to make the most of each interaction – that you want to learn what matters most to them as people. Once people realize the impact these questions and their answers can have, they’ll be glad to say Sayonara to the impersonal “Hey, what’s up?” they’ve become accustomed to.

Managers, we know you’re tight on time. But being busy is a reality in today’s non-stop, multi-channel, global workplace, but it can’t be an excuse to let relationship-building skills fade.
How do you build relationships in your fast-paced jam-packed days?

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