The new president of a retail company was troubled and frankly puzzled by what was happening to his team. They seemed to be running harder than usual and frayed around the edges. After three years as the leader of EMEA and a member of this very team, Tomas had expected after his promotion that energizing the team would be the easy part. He knew them well and they had always worked together effectively. After six months in the seat, though, they were bickering amongst themselves, and more cautious and at times, self-defensive with him.
Tomas had to admit he was spending less time with the team, as he’d been thrust into driving a turnaround for a major part of the business. He found himself meeting often with the CEO, the board, and traveling internationally. His team was left to handle urgent matters and often they couldn’t reach him.
The team liked Tomas, and respected his business acumen, but as we learned from an assessment, they didn’t think he was in tune with them anymore. Though responsive to emails, that was not sufficient. They needed time to discuss issues. He seemed distracted. As one of the members of the team put it, “Even when Tomas is here, he listens, until he stops listening.” They could see his face go blank when he’d heard enough and his mind went elsewhere.
Tomas had always prided himself on his listening skills but he had to admit that this was true. He was of course deeply dismayed that the team now didn’t see him as being attuned. We could see that this was having a cascading effect, as the assessment showed team members were spending less time meeting informally and seeking each other’s advice. It appeared they were retreating to their own worlds to solve their own problems.
What could Tomas do to recalibrate the team’s work together and rebuild the fraying channels of communication? And how could he do this while keeping up with the demands of the new role?
Resonance Narrows the Leadership Gap to Energize Your Team
Resonance is one of the most important qualities of leadership, one that becomes more important as you rise to higher levels in the organization. It is the ability to tune in to people’s thoughts, feelings and emotions. It’s hard to read the room, virtually, or in person, if you aren’t spending time with people and gathering that valuable ‘people’ data. Leaders who are resonant, on the other hand have a much easier time igniting the energizes of others and mobilizing them to achieve a common purpose. In today’s busy world, our research shows that resonance is also among the lowest rated qualities of executive presence.
10 Best Practices (When You Just Don’t Have Time) to Keep Your Team Connected
Fortunately for Tomas, he had built a basic level of trust with the team, so he could hit the restart button with them. Admitting his own part in what had happened was a very important step. He sat down and talked with the team in an authentic way, even joking about his lack of availability, then asking for their help.
The team agreed to adopt ten practices and protocols to improve their work together:
- When together, give each other our full attention with no electronic distractions
- Prepare agendas and keep meetings focused and moving briskly to get more done
- Commit to keeping one-on-one meetings on the calendar; do them in person when possible
- Choose the gold standard first: if not in person, by video; if not by video, phone
- Flag urgent issues and identify the problem to be solved and why
- Keep email brief but informative, CC is fine, but indicate when no response is required
- More than three emails, pick up the phone or schedule a call
- Assume good intent from all, if there is a miscue or misunderstanding
- Increase the number of team offsite meetings to every other month
- Bring in expert facilitation to help the team work together more effectively
Tomas put these into practice into his own routine, putting away his phone when in meetings with the team, preparing thoughtful team meeting agendas, keeping the one-on-one meetings on the calendar no matter how busy he was, and going out of his way to have face to face or video conferencing meetings with his team whenever possible. He increased the number of offsite meetings even when the team needed to meet virtually and he brought in expert facilitators. One of the most powerful impacts this had was in his own confidence that the team was going to be able to raise issues, keep him informed, and work together more collaboratively.
To learn more about high performing teams, and the secrets to leading them, download our white paper here.