One Thing with 52 Parts
My team was put together virtually as a result of organizational changes. All of us had experienced some form of “disaster fatigue” due to operational and economic concerns. All of us were working on different client sites located across multiple geographic regions and we were experiencing rapid change. On any given Monday, I received word that I had “people” and that I should engage them. I realized that due to the conditions of 50+ hour work weeks, geographic dispersion, depression about economic conditions and future outlook and a lack of cohesiveness in the team, this would be a difficult challenge.
Leadership as most know is about communication. It is about communication of intent, purpose, clarity, consistency, understanding, faith, trust, vision, strategy and value. My goal was to quickly pull our team together under the best conditions and give them the ability to execute and trust up front but offer them tools and my time to enable them for success. The result of this idea manifested itself in the form of a letter to my team.
I would like to try something different with you all. This is part of the work I am performing in Knowledge Management and I would like to see how you respond to my request. Outside of normal conversations or concerns, I would like you to send me an email / text / IM once a week preferably in the beginning of the week that is simply a number 1-5. The number 1 represents that you are doing great and that you don’t need anything and 5 being the other end of the scale. This will give me a gauge on how you are doing at a high level and provide me an opportunity to help you better if you tell me that you are a 4 /5. I would leave you without a response if I got a 1 or 2 and I would start to question if you are ok at 3. I am well aware that I am asking you to do something out of the ordinary and that it is one more thing to do BUT think of it this way… I am asking about you and I care about your well-being! This is not a firm directed action or activity and you do not have to participate if you choose not to. I am asking you as your Career Manager to help me help you (1-5) that is all I need!
For the reader here, I left the letter as it was written. It wasn’t perfectly written in hind site but everyone responded. The next Monday morning, I had emails from each team member that had an RE: with a number. At first I created a folder in email and kept track of the numbers that way. After a few weeks, I created a simple sheet to keep track of the numbers. I also altered the system a bit. If I received a number 1, I did very little except respond with a smile emoticon or note to have a good week. If I received a 2, I would send a note to see “what’s up.” If I got a 3, they would get an email and a phone call. If I got a 4 or 5, they would get an email, a phone call and a calendar request to meet in person if possible or the phone as practical.
Our team started communicating more often than just weekly notes. We all realized benefits from the conversations and found strength and commonality in our conversations even though we had different clients and different types of engagements. I could also see patterns and trends with my team both as individual performers and team members. They knew that if they sent a simple number 1 – 5 on any day at any time, that I would respond to them. The number was a primer but once we had trust, the flood gates of communication opened.
When you care.. you engage and when you engage, others care and as a result, we all learn, grow and benefit.