How are your employees? How are you as an employee or as a leader? What is your impact as a leader? These difficult questions are important to ask and in this article we will explore them in more detail.
We are all human, we all have emotions and stresses in both our personal and working lives that we need to manage on a daily basis. We often feel the need to keep our personal and work lives separate, but we are holistic beings and challenges in one impacts the other. It can seem tricky to bring our personal lives into our working lives and vice versa but this is necessary from time to time to keep ourselves balanced both in and out of the workplace. A Work/Life balance can include sharing these struggles, improving emotional connections and bringing us closer to our team.
As leaders it is important to practise compassionate leadership. This starts with self compassion. By understanding yourself and your own suffering you are in a better place to lead others. No one fires on all cylinders 24/7, we all have off days and times when we are perhaps not as productive as other times. That’s ok. Being honest when you are having an off day can seem daunting as we don’t want to appear not to be functioning well at work, which is why it is important that this open and honest dialogue comes from the top down. Compassionate leaders listen to those they lead and arrive at decisions together rather than dictating terms. For more on compassionate leadership check out our course.
So how do we ask the important questions of our staff and colleagues without appearing imposing or inappropriate? It’s really simpler than you might think. You could open by stating a difficulty you might be having. Something like: “I feel tired today.” Or: “I feel a little overwhelmed with the latest project that’s come in.”
Opening up your own struggles may lead your staff and colleagues to feel comfortable to say: “Me too, it’s a big project with lots of moving parts.” Or: “Yes, I’m feeling tired too, the dog had to go to the vet last night so I was late to bed.” Leading with openness and honesty shows that you are comfortable showing your human side in the office and don’t have to, therefore don’t expect others to be perfect all the time.
Other key questions you might ask to make your employees feel valued and invite their thoughts and feelings are the following:
“How did you take care of yourself today?”
“Tell me about your day.”
“Has anything in particular been on your mind lately?”
“What could make this feel better/different?”
“What do you wish you could have more time for today?”
“What has been challenging this week and what has helped?”
“What has gone well this week/been positive and what helped?”
Notice the open ended and positive questions. A yes or no answer cannot be used in response to an open ended question so by asking one you've opened up the floor and given space to the other person to respond however they feel they want to. Focusing on the positive aspects of work, such as what helped the challenges and what has gone well, brings the focus on success which helps make the individual feel valued.
Having a social stand up meeting once a week or every couple of weeks where no work is mentioned is another way to integrate a “wellbeing” space for colleagues and staff members to air any personal concerns or feelings they may have. This recognises each member as a whole person, not just a cog in the office wheel, and can bring colleagues closer together. Staff members would not have to speak if they didn’t want to but each person would ideally have a time slot available to share, perhaps just one word on how they are feeling that week. To get this going, particularly if it’s a new group without well-formed relationships, or a quiet group, you could create cue cards with a word on each and ask employees to select the card they feel best describes the emotional place they are in.
Create a number of these with positive, neutral and difficult emotions on them and perhaps ask the members of the group to create their own. Some examples to get you started could be; “quiet” “happy” “overwhelmed” “thoughtful” “tired” “excited” “inspired” “sad” “stressed” “melancholy” etc.
Forming social bonds in the workplace can not only make your employees feel more connected with their co-workers but can actually improve productivity, as a fun side to office (or home working) life will develop as friendships form.
We want to feel valid in the workplace and this extends beyond our skill set, essentially we want to feel we matter and that our contribution counts. We want to feel that our happiness at work also matters. As leaders we need to make our employees feel their whole selves matter. You’ve heard people talk about “bringing your whole self to work,” well that is what we are talking about here. We should be able to bring our sadnesses to work as well as our joys and be treated with respect as complete human beings.
Throughout this month perhaps give a stand up meeting a try, create a wellness space for your employees or throw a social event at work to connect your staff and check in on how everyone is doing. The team makes the company. Make sure yours is well, happy and feeling valued.