• Scott McInnes

88 | Missing moments that matter.

Last Friday I was interviewing Denis Doolan, one of the guests on our Covid Christmas Cracker Podcast special (more on that in December). We got on to the issue of maintaining human connection.

There's been a lot of talk about the challenges of recreating 'watercooler moments' - those opportunities to connect with and chat to our colleagues. It's often those little chats give us a chance to check in, to find out what's going on, perhaps to let off steam or get some advice. In short, those small, seemingly insignificant moments are a key part of what makes work, well, work!

Now we're stuck trying to work out how we can create those informal opportunities to talk to each other when we aren't physically together. And despite the fact that we've been largely forced into this remote way of working, research through the pandemic suggests that elements of this ‘not-so-new-anymore' world-of-work are definitely here to stay.

The big issue is that, regardless of the myriad of remote channels we have (think, Zoom, MS Teams, Slack, Yammer, email, phone, text, WhatsApp, FB@Work, Workvivo, Poppulo to name but a few), we've lost the informal, impromptu, "have you got a sec...?"

And while that has a huge impact on how people interact with each other 'in work', for me it has an even more fundamental effect on how (and more so, how often) teams communicate with their leaders and vice versa.

What used to be a fairly small thing - "have you got a sec?" - has suddenly become a big thing. It's now a thing that requires you to look at diaries, find a 15 min slot, send a meeting request (and get it accepted, potentially prompting a 'what's this meeting about?' conversation on email), set up a Zoom call, get on the Zoom call............

Suddenly the whole reason for the chat seems very meagre and unimportant.

And because the perception is 'this isn't a big enough thing to warrant all that arranging', these seemingly small, meagre and unimportant things go unmentioned, unreported, undiscussed. They're left to bubble away like hundreds of little volcanoes all slowly building up pressure until eventually they REALLY blow up!

So how do we get around that? I think leaders have to take the reins on this one (and sorry, I know you've got loads of stuff to be getting on with - more on that in the next blog).

Here are a few things to think about:

  • Call your team for a 1-1 - Impromptu calls with no agenda give you the time and space to have more than the transactional work conversation. Ask about their family, partner, parents, kids. Use open questions like 'how are you coping' or 'what more can I do to support you.'

  • Arrange a walk and talk - If you live near members of your team, meet them for a coffee and a walk. It’s good to get away from the desk, get outside and give each other a chance to catch up.

  • Be available - Phone calls are easy to ignore - 'I'm busy, I'll call them back later'. But when it comes to your team, don't. Answer it. There may be something bothering them that will take them 30 seconds to get off their chest. You might forget to call back and they won't want to look needy by calling again - the issue goes unmentioned and festers until BOOM! Maybe it's an investment of five minutes, but that's it done - they feel better and you've done your bit.

  • Mentoring - If you've got a very large team and you're under pressure, think about what you can put in place to help them mentor and support each other. The benefits for both mentor and mentee are well documented and, if they feel as though they can't talk to a mentor about an issue, you'll still be there.

"Have you got a sec," moments are seemingly small and inconsequential but they're REALLY important. So it's worth taking some time to think about what you can do to maintain them. And maybe instil the same ethos and attitude in your team so they can support each other from a work and personal perspective to maintain a sense of team morale.


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