Ugh! Face time. The name has taking on a negative connotation in many circles. There are abundant views to the pros and cons of face time. There are just many different definitions depending on what context you’re using it in. For clarity, this post is not about passive face time which is the ability to be seen in or around the office. And since the the words face time have probably already put a bad taste in your mouth, for purposes here, for this blog post, I’m going to refer to it instead as active engagement.
Active Engagement Part I
Your screen(s) demands your attention! You can’t stop! You’re out of control! More and more our electronic devices and social platforms are the representation of ourselves to the world and specifically to our project team. That’s why it’s vital that we stop at times; just stop! Get out of the chair, and get your butt down to the project site, or the warehouse, or perhaps it’s the assembly line. Wherever it is that your project team is concentrated, it will convey good leadership when you’re seen on the “front lines”.
In an article about body language and eye contact by Patti Wood in the Power of Nonverbal Communication she says: “Don’t let the ease of e-mails keep you from face-to-face time with your employees. Research shows that face time increases the likelihood that employees will share important negative information such as problems with fellow employees, follow through on tasks or procedural issues. Obviously “see no evil” is not a good mantra for managers.”
It doesn’t matter if things are running smooth and there is no immediate crisis to deal with. Or, if all hell is breaking loose and the end of the productive world appears emanate, you presence says a lot about you to the people you rely on. For more evidence based information, in an N2 Growth Blog, they discuss the positive effects of active engagement. “By investing just a few minutes each day into some FACE time with your employees, you will improve your team’s morale, and in turn, their engagement. This will not only save your firm money, but ultimately it will save you considerable time and brain damage as you cut down on employee churn.”
When you’re Not Actively Engaged.
Jill Geisler in Leaders and “Face Time” talks candidly from firsthand experience about how it can go wrong when you’re not actively engaged. She says: “Face time- undivided attention with lots of listening- is important to all employees, including your high-ranking middle managers.” “When leaders deny people face time, they can feel unimportant and underappreciated. People don’t know what your intentions are; they only know what you do.” I love that last line, “… they only know what you do”. There’s a lot of power in that. To me, it means we have the tools at our disposal to effectively engage with our team members. If there is a breakdown in the communication or team members moral is suffering, that’s on us, the project manager. Because all along, it was within our power to positively affect the project.
Dealing with a Global Team
Even though my current project is a couple hours away, that’s a very small distance in today’s global economy. Your project may be concentrated in one place, and possibly near you, but some of your team could be across the country or further. This is where being actively engaged requires effective communication. At some point, you’re going to get the chance to actively engage all your team members. It’s crucial that in these instances, weather brief or not, that we advantage of them. Gallup has a good article about this, especially since they cite measured results when talking about individuals working remotely and how they are, or are not engaged. In the end they say: “Establishing relationships is really important, and one of the ways you do that is by face-to-face meetings, sharing a meal, or doing some other activity together. The fact that you establish some kind of human contact is important because then the remote meetings — or the collaborative but not co-located meetings — are reinforced by these personal experiences.”
Active Engagement Part I
While you’re actively engaging, ask those working for you if they have questions about the project, or anything else for that matter. I guarantee the responses you get in a one-one are going to be of better quality and value than compared to responses you might get in a group setting. But if you’re walking around and addressing individuals on a one-on-one basis, you’re going to get personal viewpoints about the project and maybe more. Each time you go out you may only be able to talk to a few at a time, but those few can then become ambassadors for you and the project. This is not to say you stop addressing the team as a whole and you may have thousands working for you so it’s impossible to reach every single team member individually. But, the active engagement of a few can be stronger than the long drawn out speech to the many.
In an article from HealthLeaders Media it says: “The more time you can spend in front of your employees talking about day-to-day work, the better off the organization is and the higher satisfaction you’ll have with employees.” It can “… lower turnover rates and alert leaders to potential problems”
Active engagement is also a great opportunity for you to really tie the team together. When you take a moment and are patient while listening, and in explaining what’s going on, you’re going to allow for understand to take place. And through understanding team members can take ownership in the project. When the team has ownership, you’re going to end up with everyone working together for the success of the project. From the top down, if everyone understands what’s going on, then from the top down everyone will be that much more vested in its success.
Below is a quick sketch of what was described above and what can happen when you get out and actively engage and how it can lead to a projects success.
Whenever I leave the office, and drive to the project locating, my email back logs for at least a day. In fact I’m usually up till midnight that night catching up on all the days’ digital activates. But it’s worth it! It doesn’t matter to whom you’re accountable, we’re all accountable to someone at some level. And when that someone comes asking “what’s going on with the project” you can answer with certainty what’s going on and why. This “why” is very important. Because of your active engagement you can answer with authority since you saw and heard it first hand, from those you rely on. This will demonstrate your command of your project.
So, what are you still doing here? Get out and actively engage, you and your team will greatly benefit. Also, stop using the words face time; it’s just awful!