Julie Morgenstern shares enormous parenting wisdom in her On Leadership interview. As the father of three young boys, I was captivated by her research and insights and have already begun implementing some of them in my home (to total early failure, but I am committed to endure).
One of her most impactful suggestions related to how we spend time with our children. She advises that the research supports short bursts, consistently delivered with no distractions. Instead of broad swaths of time where we’re likely distracted in and out of focus, take 5-15 minutes delivered several pivotal times each day (upon waking up, sending them off to school, dinner, bedtime etc.).
Without patronizing your team members, I think the same principle can apply.
If you’re in a leadership role, run the names of your direct reports through your mind and ask yourself when was the last time you invested some uninterrupted time connecting with them. Listening, understanding, and re-engaging with them. Personally and professionally.
I recently had a close colleague, who reports to me and I’ve worked with for nearly 15 years, albeit mostly in different states, ask me if I knew the names of her two children. She was in fact testing me.
I failed completely. I couldn’t name either one. I was mortified. It was humbling. As I write this, I can still only name one of them. Shameful.
It’s not complete disinterest. At least that’s what I tell myself. This is a person I spend hours with on the phone each week. We collaborate on many projects. I’d even say we’re friends. We have high trust with each other, and we know a lot about each other’s lives, insecurities, wishes, and goals.
And here’s the additional shame—I’ll bet she could recite my three boys’ names with zero hesitation.
Check back in with your team members and colleagues. Investing in your relationships is paramount to building high-trust, highly productive teams.
And listen to remember. Don’t just ask because you think it’s the right thing to do—even though it is. I’m still asking myself why I can’t remember her second child’s name.
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