Zoom, I Think We Might Need To Break Up

Zoom, I Think We Might Need To Break Up

Zoom I don’t know how to tell you this so I will come straight out and say it. I want to break up with you as I am don’t know if we are working. Or maybe I am just not that into you. I am sorry and I know you will need some time to process this as well. I really miss the human connection of my teams and workplace.

Not that long ago, I was watching “The Wizard of Oz”. It is such a classic with great leadership lessons. During this viewing, however, I picked up on a new leadership lesson: the importance of connecting with your teammates as a real person and in person. 

Think about it: Throughout the film, the Wizard relies on mystery and fear to rule Oz. But when did he become most helpful? When he revealed who he truly was and personally engaged with Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion. From there, he was able to actually help them build the confidence to obtain what they’d always wanted — a brain, a heart, courage, and a homecoming. In turn, I loved how they all had their individual strengths and they embraced them.

Back in Kansas, or wherever you call home or work, the same idea applies. The importance of human connection and I think it is fundamentally what is missing today. I recently worked with a company who told me that they had huge turnover as their leaders didn’t connect with them in six months! How hard it is to pick up the phone?

I stand here pretending to be Dorothy with my eyes closed and saying, “there’s no place like my work office.” I really miss the daily connection with my teams. Are you Zoomed out or is it just me?

In fact, according to a survey on employee job satisfaction and engagement conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, 74 percent of respondents stated their relationship with their supervisor was one of the top five factors influencing their engagement at work. As Gallup has found, when companies have a more engaged team, they’re more productive and more profitable. I truly believe that this pandemic has shifted the way we lead and connect with your teams and people with many of us not knowing how to lead a remote and virtual team.

How can you step behind the curtain and connect with your teammates on a greater level? This blog is about Zoom per se as it is a great tool however, we need to be connecting a lot more today than we have in the past few years and here is how.

Here are five places to start. 

1. Communicate frequently. 

As a leader, communicating with your team is key. After all, it gives your team members the chance to ask questions, share ideas, and solicit feedback. As a result, they feel like they’re part of the bigger picture — as long as you actively listen and act on their suggestions. (Even explaining why you’re not able to act on them can go a long way.) 

More importantly, it gives you the opportunity to get to know them better: their strengths, their passions, what interests they have inside and outside work. You’ll have a better idea of what they want their future to look like and how you and your company might play a role.

Best of all, there’s a variety of ways you can communicate with your team on a regular basis. You could schedule one-on-ones, plan team brainstorming sessions, or use communication tools like Slack. You could eat lunch with teammates or stop by for a quick chat when they’re taking a break. 

2. Go beyond “How are you?”

Harvard Business School research shows that asking a single question like “How are you?” won’t get much of a response. Instead, you need to dig deeper, asking open-ended follow-up questions. And those should delve into what’s going on beyond work. Find out about their backgrounds and personal interests. You don’t need to know every detail of their lives — and you shouldn’t — but getting to know what sparks joy for them is an effective way of showing that you care about them as people, not just employees.

Personally, you can encourage your team to open up more by being transparent yourself. Discuss your interests, and tell stories about your life. That should be enough to make people feel more at ease. Another option for breaking the ice is to partake in team-building activities that can help everyone get to know each other’s talents and personalities. 

3. Help them reach their goals. 

“You need to hold people accountable to their goals,” Tom Ferry, CEO of Tom Ferry International, told CNBC. “One of the big steps in that process is having someone identify their true motivation, or why.”

You can achieve this by creating an environment that fuels this type of growth. Have team meetings to discuss goals as a group. Host one-on-one meetings with individuals to hear about what drives them in their work. Ask about their goals outside work, too — someone who wants to run a marathon or seeks a writing outlet may trigger new ideas.

“Finally, act as a coach and accountability partner as they implement their goals,” says Ferry. “When you take a genuine interest in your employees and impact their lives beyond the office, you build lasting relationships and a more loyal tribe.” Make sure you dedicate time each week one on one either in person or via the phone to help them reach their goals – or Zoom if can’t break up with it yet.

4. Recognise and celebrate.

I’m a fan of “The Office.” One of my favourite episodes is when Jim’s left in charge because Michael’s gone on an excursion to become “Survivor Man.” Jim decides to consolidate all birthdays into one celebration. Obviously, this doesn’t go well. 

Individual birthdays were so popular at Dunder Mifflin because they made each employee feel appreciated. Even something as trivial as getting to decide what type of cake you get for your birthday makes you feel like a big deal. 

Obviously, you can’t celebrate every day. But when it comes to milestones and important dates like birthdays and anniversaries, a little celebrating can go a long way — even via a handwritten note or thank you card. I would definitely recognise and celebrate them in our 2022 Global Outstanding Leadership Awards.

And don’t forget to recognize your employees’ hard work. Send a quick email thanking them for the thoughtful question they asked at the last meeting or acknowledging the improvement in their work. You can also surprise them with gifts that they’ll either enjoy or become more effective with.

5. Stop saying you don’t have time or you are too busy. 

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realised that it’s not worth my time and energy to make plans with people who don’t follow through. In turn, one thing I truly can’t stand is when I talk with people who have to tell me how busy they are – all the time!

The same idea is true as a leader. If an employee is constantly asking if you have a moment to discuss a project or conflict, only to hear, “Sorry, I don’t have time, or I am too busy” that person’s going to feel as if you don’t care. She’ll stop coming to you for help or advice — or leave your company altogether.

The better option is to make time for your team. That doesn’t mean always stopping what you’re doing. But, in the grand scheme of a day, we all have five minutes to respond to an email or refer someone to a resource he needs. If the teammate needs more time than that, ask him to schedule a time to talk with you. It shows that you value your time and his, and you want to give him your full attention when you can. 

Connecting with your team on a personal level may not seem like a priority, but if you want to build and retain top talent, it’s an area you must focus on. When you do, you’ll be able to boost engagement, productivity, and profits — and build a foundation you can all grow on.

Zoom I am not breaking up with you yet however I know the keys to leadership and success are to make sure I connect with them more than ever before.

I do love you Zoom however I know our relationship will need to end soon as I am just not that into you…

By Sonia McDonald

Founder and Managing Director of Leadership HQ and McDonald Inc. Leadership coach, entrepreneur, CEO and author. 

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Sonia McDonald is changing the face of leadership across the globe. She believes we should lead with kindness and courage, from the heart, and is known for her mantra ‘Just Lead’. She leads by example in all these areas and through her transformational coaching, leadership training programs and cultural transformation for organisations and encourages others to do the same. Sonia has helped thousands of people on their leadership journey to become the best version of themselves and in turn, inspire and bring out the best in others.

Sonia is a founder and CEO of McDonald Inc., LeadershipHQ and Global Outstanding Leadership Awards and the newly launched Courage Conference. For more than 25 years, Sonia has been on the front lines of leadership and she is beyond committed to her mission around building a world of great leaders.

She has held leadership positions worldwide and through experience, research and study come to realise what it takes to be a truly great leader. She has been recognised by Richtopia as One of the Top 250 Influential Women across the Globe and Top 100 Australian Entrepreneurs.

Sonia has an ability to speak bravely and authentically about her own development as a leader, personal and career challenges in a way which resonates with her audience. She is a leading coach, an award-winning published author of newly released First Comes Courage, Leadership Attitude and Just Rock It! and has become an in-demand keynote speaker on leadership, kindness and courage.

Sonia has become recognised for her commentary around the topic of leadership, kindness, empathy and courage as well as building outstanding leadership across the Globe.