When you're responsible for managing employees, it's important not to slip into a habit of managing with emails. Your employees are your team. Imagine if a football coach emailed a game plan to his players, instead of reviewing it with them in person. It's hard to get excited or motivated when you're simply reading words.
In psychology, it's generally agreed that 55 percent of communications is body language, 38 percent is the tone of voice and only seven percent is the actual words we say. This means that emails and text, although incredibly useful for many reasons, are pretty ineffective at conveying emotion, clarifying strategies and for making sure your team members are all on the same page. A single two-sentence email can be interpreted in several ways.
Most managers know this, of course. They hold weekly meetings to discuss numbers, goals and strategies. In addition to the requisite meetings, I recommend a few best practices to help build a strong team bond:
1) Increase face-to-face time.
Try to check in with direct reports on a daily basis, or at least every other day. Don't just ask questions related to goals, or your employees will think you're nagging them. A check-in can be a few minutes of small talk. Hold an impromptu 5-minute coaching or motivational session. Tell a story. Share a success. Keep employees in the loop. Ask them to help you solve a problem.
2) Let employees do the talking.
Listening is probably the most important managerial skill. A lot of managers believe that their job requires constant teaching or the sharing of wisdom. At times this is appropriate, but most of the time it's more appropriate to listen to your employees.
Remember how I mentioned seven percent of communication is words? While you're listening, watch your employees' body language and listen to their tone. It's easy to pick up cues if someone is unhappy or struggling, but you have to be actively listening and paying attention.
3) Get to know your team members.
At every opportunity, take the time for some personal chit chat. A good manager knows and cares about their team members. That means you know the names of their spouses and kids, birthdays, hobbies, what's going on in their lives and what their personal and professional goals are.
This is not an overnight thing, and it does require memory. A tip that works for me is this: If I have learned a little tidbit about someone after a conversation, I'll enter the information right into their contact. That way you don't have to try and remember everything, although over time, the more you look at that contact, the more you will remember.
Also, don't forget that sharing is a two-way street. Don't expect to get what you don't share, and always be willing to share more than what you're going to get back.
4) M is for Moderator, not Manager.
The word 'manager' is really a misnomer. It implies that you're in charge of something or that you're supposed to give orders. I prefer the word moderator. You have a goal, and you have a team. Your team members are responsible for getting to you that goal. Your job as a manager is to give them what they need to succeed.
Too often, I see managers trying to make everything happen themselves. They try to lead their team to victory, but that's not how it works. You've got to let your employees progress at their own pace and make their own mistakes. Success cannot be taught, and not all people achieve success using the same formula. Success is something that has to be worked out and achieved on an individual basis.
5) Don't send hasty emails.
Sometimes it's necessary to send an email, and sometimes email is the ideal communications format. Always take the time to review an email before you send it out, and ask the following questions:
It's also important to strike the right balance between too much and too little information. The only thing worse than a long-winded, meandering email is one that's too short. When responding to an email make sure you are answering all of the sender's questions, and provide short explanations if you think it's required.
As a manager, it's important to stay in touch with your team. Nobody likes to work in a vacuum, so take the time to meet face-to-face and have genuine, two-way conversations. Your team members will feel appreciated and stay motivated.