Having conducted hundreds of employee assessments over the years, there are several themes that are constant, one if which is that employees want their company’s leaders to be visible and accessible.

Building Relationships and Trust

  • Show People that you Care – Typically, managers who are visible to employees on a regular basis are viewed as caring, concerned and appreciative. In contrast, managers who are rarely seen are viewed as distant, uncaring and unappreciative of their employees’ efforts. As one employee explained it, “when playing a sport, there is something inspiring about looking to the sideline to see your coach urging you on, but to see no one there, leaves you with an empty feeling.”
  • Face-to-Face Communication – I believe most managers understand the importance of establishing good working relationships with their employees, as it helps to improve communication and trust. However, in order to build constructive relationships and trust, most researchers agree that some face-to-face interaction is necessary. Beyond the spoken word, there is a special dynamic that takes place when two people stand close, look each other in the eye and speak directly to one another.

Effective Ways to Interact with Employees

While many managers profess to understand the importance of direct interaction with their employees, they often cite logistical barriers or tight schedules as reasons why they are unable to accomplish this. Listed below are a few techniques successfully employed by some of the managers we have worked with over the years.

  • Walk the Floor – Take 30 minutes or so each morning to walk through the factory or office, stopping to say “good morning” and briefly talk with two or three employees. If you do this on a regular basis you will get to know a lot of people and demonstrate to others that you are engaged and care about your employees.
  • Coffee Talks – Another technique successfully employed by some managers is to schedule a small group of employees (eight to 10) to meet over a cup of coffee (and doughnuts) for an hour or so. During these brief sessions, managers can get better acquainted with their employees, listen to their perspective as to what’s working and what’s not and for the manager to share his or her views regarding the business.
  • Group Meetings – While less intimate, regularly scheduled all-employee meetings provide a good opportunity for employees to see and hear directly from their leaders as to the state of the business, and to ask questions.
  • Phone Calls (power of voice) – Another technique that has been successfully employed is for a member of the management/leadership team to call an individual employee by telephone and speak to them directly. This is typically done in order to congratulate or thank an employee for an exceptional effort. Even though this approach interacts with just one person, the word quickly gets out that a company leader took the time to acknowledge an individual — helping the manager to gain credibility with all employees.

Warning: Cannot Lead by Email

In today’s technological era, many managers make the mistake of trying to develop working relationships through email. I assure you, one cannot lead or build relationships using email or correspondence alone. As mentioned earlier, the best way to create a relationship, and to inspire one’s employees, is to have a physical presence. Emails and correspondence are useful for conveying information but have little to do with creating the trust and respect necessary for establishing good working relationships.

Well Worth the Effort

In closing, if you want to inspire your employees to go the extra mile to help your business succeed and prosper, consider what you and your leadership team can do to win the hearts and minds of your employees. Be the visible coach on the sidelines, cheering on your organization. I believe you will find that the time and energy invested in being a visible leader is well worth the effort. And, to learn more about how to be a sucessful, effective leader, contact one of our employee relations consultants today.

The above article was written by Cameron J. Hutchison, President and Founder of Hutchison Group, Inc. With over 30 years of experience, the Hutchison Group is a highly regarded management consulting firm focused on all aspects of labor and employee relations; helping union and non-union employers improve productivity, teamwork and performance. Visit our web page at www.hutchgrp.com