Photo courtesy of PixabayWe recently blogged about the importance of spending time with your direct reports. While research suggests that six hours a week spent interacting with your employees may be the “magic number” for increasing engagement, we believe the issue isn’t just about quantity – it’s also about quality.

For example, when you’re talking with your employees or team members – in person or on the phone – what do you discuss beyond work priorities and deadlines? If the answer is “nothing,” you may be missing a valuable opportunity.

Think about someone – a coach, teacher, supervisor, or friend – who made a profound positive impact on you.  How did they make you feel? Did they willingly and enthusiastically give you their time, or did you struggle to get their attention? Did they ask about your opinions and concerns, or did they monopolize the conversation and quickly grow impatient when it veered off course? Were you comfortable being your authentic self, or did you feel like you needed to act in a certain way to gain their approval?

Now, consider how you treat your team members or employees. Do you recognize any of the behaviors – positive or not so positive – outlined above? If you see some areas for personal improvement, don’t worry. The good news is that it’s not difficult for leaders to make an investment in their people by initiating what we like to call a “Be With” program.

What is a “Be With” program? Just what it sounds like – a commitment to personally investing in your team by being with them. Here’s how you can start implementing a meaningful “Be With” program today:

  • Find ways to spend time outside the context of work commitments, responsibilities, and stress. Short on time? An impromptu lunch or coffee invitation is a good chance to connect. Not in the same office? A quick check-in call (no business required) on your way to or from work or a meeting is a friendly gesture they’ll remember.
  • Actively listen without interrupting – and let them know that you are interested and care about their development.
  • Relate to their challenges – both personal and professional.
  • Share stories – good and not so good – from your own journey as a leader – and with humility.
  • Ask about their lives – their families, vacations, hobbies, home improvements – things they care about.
  • Find some levity – shared laughter is powerfully connective.

And here’s the hidden advantage.  Not only does spending quality time with your employees result in higher employee engagement, it also helps you develop as a manager. In fact, learning how to “Be With” someone is the highest form of leadership.

Admittedly, committing yourself to these efforts takes time and energy. But the return on your investment is immeasurable. Passion, commitment, loyalty, creativity, engagement – these are things you can’t demand or “buy.” They can’t be commandeered. But, people who believe in you, your humanity, and your leadership – they will eagerly volunteer them.