You march into the office every morning, hurredly making your way to your corner office with your nose stuck in a binder hoping no one will interrupt your stride so that even if you truly aren’t too busy to stop and talk, you LOOK like you are.  You spend most of your time engulfed in your own projects, and you only answer the phone when the call is coming from the C-Suite.  You have no idea what is going on out in the cubicles, and when the data analyst comes in your office to request a day off, you give him a quick answer and send him on his way while thinking in your head, “What was his name again?”  Well, it’s time to get out of that ivory tower and get in tune with your employees, before you no longer have any employees to manage!
Now, most cases of managers losing touch with their employees are not so overt or careless.  For many managers, it is not a blatant disregard for their employees’ wants and needs, but simply preoccupation with other tasks at hand.  You may have many projects on your plate, and many people you must talk to each day, and it can get easy to find yourself so wrapped up in your own dealings that when 5:00 Friday hits, you realize you haven’t checked in on your employees all week.
As a manager, one of your primary priorities is to do what your title asks of you, and manage the employees under you. This is not to say you should micromanage or harass employees on how they are doing simply to pick their brain for information.  A genuine interest in those in roles that help support you can go a long way.  See how their day is going.  Make sure you are in tune with their professional goals and what they hope to get out of the organization and their position; many of the weaknesses that you can’t see in your own organization can be unearthed by those that are living and working in it every day.  Being in touch with the feelings and goals of your employees, and conversely keeping employees in the loop with your and the organization’s status and goals, will make for a much more supportive and enjoyable work environment, boosting morale and productivity.
Below is an excerpt from a Refresh Leadership blog with tips on making sure you and your employees are in stride, making your common goals that much more attainable!
Take an Employee to Lunch. Make it a point to take one employee to lunch each month. Take this opportunity to ask questions and invite them to ask you questions. While you won’t be able to hide your identity to allow employees more carefree communication like the bosses on “Undercover Boss” do, you can still get your employees to open up by talking about more than just work, starting with yourself first. Put them at ease by letting them know you can relate and that you genuinely care about who they are as a person.
Walk in Their Shoes. You may have worked your way up to your current position, served in several areas of the company, and know the ins and out of your business. Still, it’s important to understand the roles of all your employees today. So, take time to shadow an employee who works in an area you’re not familiar with – or one who works your old desk – to see how things may have changed. Don’t interfere, offer criticism, or give constructive feedback – just observe, learn, and actually do some of the work. This will give you a good idea of what the job entails.
Hold Regular Team Meetings. As a leader, you spend a lot of time meeting with upper management and direct reports. But, it’s important to regularly take the pulse of your entire department or organization – from executives to the front lines. So establish a quarterly meeting where you can actually meet with employees who are not in upper management. Create a time where employees can get together to discuss work issues and ideas. Let them share their concerns along with thoughts on what’s working and what’s not. Taking time to listen and engage sends the right message – that you care about your people and everyone is a priority.
Going undercover at your workplace may not be an option for you, but there are ways you can discover more about your employees and get to know them on a more personal level. Taking the time to learn more about your staff can help you improve your company, whether it’s by increasing employee engagement, implementing new procedures, or creating new career development tools.