Making the connection


I am struggling to get my team to understand what it is I do as a manager. Despite sharing my diary, sending them updates about meetings and projects I am busy with, having regular one-on-one discussions and weekly team meetings, the feeling seems to be "we do all the work and she doesn't seem to do much herself".

I am trying to encourage my team to take responsibility for their work and be accountable. When it comes to review and signing off tasks, I have requested that they book time for me in an organised manner so that I know what to expect and I don't arrange other meetings and I am available for them. Their opinion is that they should just do the task and I should do the rest to ensure everything is completed and compliant.

I think they are used to smaller office environments where their previous managers were more hands-on and each task was shared. We don't have that luxury here as in addition to managing the team, we are expected to assume other responsibilities, which I love and means a wonderfully varied job. I constantly remind them that I am here to support and assist but how do I get them to feel good about working without the need for constant supervision?

Nicola, London

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Chris Welford's Answer:

Reading your posting made me wonder about how strong the relationships are between you and your team members - on a human level? Maybe this is the missing ingredient?

You come across as a rational and professional manager but if we try and strip the emotion out of management altogether, if we fail to acknowledge the feelings that accompany any relationships between people and if we try and keep each and every transaction purely on the intellectual level, we turn ourselves into pretty cold fish! We certainly don't demonstrate leadership in the true sense of the word. Emotions are the glue in all relationships and management is no different!

When a significant issue at work comes up, your people experience one of two things - stress or pleasure. Stress is associated with the thought that something is dangerous, could hurt them or that they might experience loss. Stress is also a personal reaction and not a universal experience. Pleasure, on the other hand, is generally connected with the expectation of satisfaction.

When we think of something as dangerous, we become frightened. When things hurt us, we generally feel angry and when we experience loss we feel sad: three primary emotions - fear, anger and sadness. Add a fourth primary emotion - joy, and we have the full set! Pretty much everything else is a variation on a theme.

So, what happens with each? If we feel frightened, we want to run away. If we feel anger we feel compelled to attack and if we feel sad, we often close up and want less contact. Of course, if we feel joy, we tend to move towards things.

The next question, having acknowledged emotions, rather than tried to keep them out of the conversation, is what to do. Again, there are a limited number of appropriate responses.

The frightened person really needs your help and reassurance to stop them fleeing, emotionally or physically. The angry person needs to see that something is able to change and the sad person needs some consolation from you. And just in case we forget, let's not leave out the happy person who really, really wants to share their positive feelings with you.

Just being a bit more aware of all of this would make a great deal of difference to many leaders. So next time you anticipate having to have a difficult conversation, stop and think about the emotional needs of the people on the other end. How about working with the emotions in the team? Combining this with your professionalism and drive could be a powerful cocktail.


About our Expert

Chris Welford
Chris Welford

Chris Welford is the founder of Sixth Sense Consulting and an experienced management consultant and coach. He is a member of the British Psychological Society (BPS) and the European Coaching and Mentoring Council (EMCC) and a Chartered member of the CIPD.