Several years ago, I worked for a men’s mentoring program called Alpha Academy. During my time there, I lived in a house with between 1 to 4 guys who were trying to get their lives on track.
As a “house leader” there, I mentored the guys by working and living alongside them. One of the more challenging aspects of the job was making real connections with the guys. These 18-25-year-olds had rough life experiences up to this point and weren’t exactly open.
Because of this, I had to get smart about building a real connection without forcing it.
Connecting With People Is Hard
Connection is one table leg of four that I use as the foundation of my business and life. The other three are Accountability, Self-Awareness, and Growth. These four legs give me a table to set my business and life on.
The thing about connecting with people is sometimes it can be really hard. During my time at Alpha Academy, I built some deep and powerful connections but it was some of the hardest “connecting” work I ever did.
Connection Requires Facetime
If you’ve ever been on a blind date or been on a double date and been forced to “connect” with the other spouse, it can be awkward. As a leader, you know the people that are easy to connect with and those that are a challenge.
What if there was a way to simply connect with your employee? This simple approach ultimately won’t be awkward and will develop the type of connection that is beneficial to both of you.
To hold up the Connection corner of the table, you need face time. You need one-to-one time with the people you lead in your workplace.
If you knew you could build better relationships with your staff and it would only take you 10-minutes per week, would you be willing to try?
It’s Just 10-Minutes Per Week
Even you can spare 10-minutes a week for an employee, right? During my time at the Alpha Academy, there was a student named Phil that had a particularly rough upbringing. He rarely, if ever opened up to anyone.
But as his leader, I knew it was my job to try. There were 6 of us living in a three bedroom farmhouse in San Luis Obispo, CA. I shared a 10 x 12 room with another “house leader” and the students shared a larger room down the hall. During the day, the third room was the office space for the president and program director.
Just like in your workplace, there are always inconveniences and interruptions that make it difficult to spend time with your employees. Even if it is only 10-minutes to connect.
To overcome the space constraints and time constraints, we created what we called “10-minute Tuesdays.” Every Tuesday I would meet with each of the students for at 10-minutes. The most important piece of this connecting time was making sure that I didn’t have an agenda. The time was 100% in their hands.
Things don’t go as planned when we do this, but sometimes that is the best thing that could happen.
Some Employees Really Are Hard To Connect With
I’m sure you’ve made attempts to connect with your employees. Some have gone well I would assume, others not so well.
On these 10-minute Tuesdays, it was no different for me. The other three students and I were able to quickly connect and get to know one another. This made it much easier for me to help them.
But with Phil, it took a few weeks. Can you think of an employee that it’s taken several weeks to really connect with? Or maybe you have an employee that you have never really connected with. That was my experience with Phil.
The room I was staying in had a bunk bed with a futon on the bottom. So we would fold up the futon, sit and chat. It was our meeting space. I would start the meeting time with a simple question like, “What do you want to talk about?” or “What’s on your mind?”.
The first two weeks I literally got no response. We literally sat for 10-minutes in silence. Have you had a meeting that was that awkward?
You Have To Stick With It
If you have employees that are truly difficult to connect with like Phil was, don’t despair.
During the third week, Phil finally had something to say. Unfortunately, I don’t remember our conversation. But he was able to open up and share his thoughts and struggles from then on.
Who knows what would have happened if I had given up after that first 10-minute Tuesday. After that first week, I thought the whole idea was stupid and a waste of time. But I decided to stick with it and it really paid off.
As you think about your work schedule and your employees, can you think of a time and place that you can connect with each employee?
How To Do 10-Minute Meetings
First of all, don’t stick to the 10-minute window. It is inevitable that the window will grow to 15 or 30-minutes. Even if you have 4 employees we are only talking about two hours of your week, these two hours will ultimately save you lots of headaches and time.
These face to face meetings are priceless in building a connection with your employees. Below are 4 musts when you do your “10-Minute Tuesday” meeting.
- Show up. Don’t push the meeting aside because you can easily re-schedule 10-minutes. What is that saying to your employee?
- Don’t make it too formal. It’s just a chat about what’s on their mind.
- Don’t advise or lead the conversation where you want it to go. Just listen and ask great questions.
- Remember, the only agenda is their agenda.
When you approach this idea with an employee, make sure they understand the intention. It is not a weekly employee review. It is not the time to share your frustration about something.
This time is about what is on their mind. In fact, asking “What’s on your mind?” is a great place to start. Don’t forget to add the AWE question.
You can do your 10-minutes as you drive to a meeting together. Some people meet at a coffee shop. You can even walk the grounds and have the meeting. The more natural you can make the conversation, the better. Just make sure to avoid a conference room or an office. Those settings are too formal.
When you start this process, a good way to do it is at a team meeting. Make it simple, short, and casual as you explain it. Maybe no one will be on board, but the intention to connect with your employees is powerful and will bring great breakthroughs.
Finally, if you do it with one employee, you must do it with all the employees that report to you. You’re setting yourself up for problems if you don’t.
Breakthroughs Will Come
If you dare to do this. Stick with it for at least 12-weeks. You can even tell your employee you are trying a 90-day experiment. Any less than this and you won’t get the rich rewards that a longer commitment to this will produce.
It is important to truly commit to this. If you are not truly committed to the idea, don’t do it. It will fail miserably. But if you are, you and your team will be richly rewarded.
You can start today by finding those 10-30 minute windows that you can commit to each of your employees. What an honoring thing you can do for the people that work for you. If you are willing to commit to “10-Minute Tuesdays” send me an email about how the first week goes.