This is probably one of the most important aspects of being a leader; knowing your team. Now, this does not mean you will be having drinks with them at the pub after work, going out camping with them, having them over for dinner with the family, etc. What it means is getting to know what makes your team tick, their hobbies, if they’re married, have children, shows they like to watch, sports team they follow, etc.
How much do you tell your team about yourself? How much do you ask to know of your teammates? Well, it is all about balancing because you do not need to know every little detail of their life but, like I said they won’t become your best friends, you also don’t want to be cold and distant from them. Get too close to your team and they might not take you serious as their superior but don’t get close enough and they may not trust you. Divulge whatever you feel is comfortable for you to divulge as well as what your team member feels is enough information; you’ll know this by gauging them and/or trial and error. If one of your team members doesn’t feel comfortable informing you of their personal life, do not push it, respect their wishes, and keep it professional.
Keep it Professional
Will your teammates become a friend? Sure, it happens, especially in the military, they become family, but you want to distinguish between you as the leader and them as the subordinates. I have had plenty of work relationships where myself and my leaders became like brothers and sisters but I also understood if I made a mistake they would make me pay and I would not take it personally. If you know you are the type to get too attached and take things personal, you should keep work life work and your personal life personal. If you cannot make that distinction, you should not blur that line at all.
Another way to get to know your team is through team building exercises. Now, I know we all think these can be tedious, drab, and otherwise lackluster but, if done right, it can be extremely beneficial. Sometimes they can seem silly when you are doing them but I feel it is because you are making yourself vulnerable and you laugh and joke around to hide your vulnerabilities. Breaking these defenses down can seriously give you more confidence and can teach you a lot about yourself as well as your team and what their strengths and weaknesses are.
Knowing your team is very beneficial and will ensure your team trusts you because you can be strong and confident but also weak and vulnerable. This shows that you can be human and relatable. In a future post I will discuss this more on being emotionally distant to stay professional and get the job done but not be a robot and show you’re human.