One of the most visible ways that people get work accomplished is through interactions with other people. As mangers, most of us participate in these performance related conversations on a regular basis. Our effectiveness during these interactions plays an enormous role in our success as managers in the new business normal.
Interactions related to work performance can occur on an informal basis, such as a quick telephone conversation with an employee about a work-related question. They can also occur on a more formal, structured level such as one-on-one meetings to discuss projects, goals, problems, new assignments, and an endless list of other potential topics.
As managers in the new business normal our time comes at a premium, so making the most of the time we have with our individual team members is an important practice for us to cultivate. One of the ways we can maximize our time together is to develop a habit of focusing our attention so we stay present during these interactions.
With so many other priorities and tugs at our time, we can easily become distracted or attempt to focus on multiple issues at one time rather than paying laser sharp attention to the performance conversation we are having with our employees. This is especially the case when we have one-on-one meetings with our individual team members. The result is that we get much less accomplished, and the people we are meeting with are penalized because of our distracted management style.
What are some steps to take that will help us increase our ability stay present during people performance interactions? Listed below are some practices I have found to be beneficial.
- Schedule specific time with our staff member. Stick to the designated time allotment we have and don’t let others interrupt our time together.
- Clear distractions by turning off, silencing or forwarding phones, e-mail, iphones, blackberrys, or any other forms of potential interruption that will not be used during the discussion.
- Clear our minds of other matters and create mental space so we can “be there” in the time we have allotted. Take a few minutes to do this before the meeting. Sometimes taking deep breaths or engaging in some other type of physical activity (such as stretching) can help here.
- Articulate and agree on the purpose of the discussion with the participant and revisit it frequently to make sure the conversation sticks to the purpose.
- During the course of the performance conversation, practice self-awareness by asking ourselves discovery questions that are designed to focus our attention and keep us in the present. Often, we can bring ourselves back to the present simply by asking ourselves these questions. I have found this to be one of the most helpful practices to keep our mindsets in the present. These questions can be expressed in many different ways. These questions can be especially helpful for us during performance conversations:
Are we completely engaged and present in the discussion? If not, what is causing us to be distracted and how can we eliminate this distraction?
How are we feeling about this interaction? What emotions is it evoking? Are they causing us to lose our focus?
Are we moving forward and making progress, or are we getting stuck? What is holding us back?
By practicing these steps listed above, we can increase our effectiveness at staying present during performance interactions and get better results. With so many different priorities pulling us in so many different directions, the best managers are discovering that staying in the present is a best practice for managers in the new business normal and leads to performance improvement.
Do you struggle with staying present in your performance interactions with others? What has been your experience and what practices have helped you?