So often I find myself astounded at the mindless way in which many people work. They talk about the frustrations that they have with their team members’ lack of progress or disappointing execution despite the fact that they have emailed them numerous times! I am always concerned when I hear about complex work being delegated by email, so my standard question is “Where are these team members located?” Of course, I’m a bit of a smartass, so I know the answer to this question – “Oh, in the open plan outside my office.”
That is when silence is my best friend.
Let’s be clear. We are all vulnerable to working on autopilot. We receive an email about some important initiative, and we delegate this on by email. In fact, how much of our day do we spend reading and responding to emails? There is just too much that is done by email that really should be done via the medium of conversation.
If you are frustrated by team members who send emails to each other from adjoining desks, then you have the opportunity to model the way in terms of how you exercise leadership and build relationships yourself.
How many times a day do you leave your desk just in order to check in with the people around you? How many times a day do you pick up the phone to team members working remotely from you just to see how it's going? Are you too busy for this? If you are too busy to care, then you will find that your leadership team is probably also too busy to care. And then the whole organisation is too busy to care. That's how toxic cultures are created - not through malice, but through lack of care.
But let's not see this as a purely altruistic thing. Leaders connect with their people and teams as much for themselves as they do for other people! According to Steve Siegle, quoted in an article on the Mayo Clinic Health System "Being kind boosts serotonin and dopamine, which are neurotransmitters in the brain that give you feelings of satisfaction and well-being, and cause the pleasure/reward centers in your brain to light up. Endorphins, which are your body's natural pain killer, also can be released." Serotonin impacts on our ability to focus, and focus is critical to the quality of our work - so caring and kindness boost output! It's in the interests of organisational performance to create a culture of care and kindness - it just makes good business sense.