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Checking in with People isn't Micromanagement - It's Kind!

A leader's job is to check in with people and help them!


My uncle has been sick and in hospital for the past few weeks. Every day I've been making time to call my aunt and text my cousin to check in on how they are doing. I ask about physical progress my uncle is making recovering from his illness, and I ask about how my aunt and cousin are holding up mentally. Then I ask if there is anything that I can do to help.


"That's great", you may be thinking to yourself, "That's your family. Of course you are going to check in with them. But what does it have to do with leadership and a work environment?"


Everything.


Even though the people you lead may not be your family members, they are human beings before they are anything else (employees, computer programmers, forklift operators, designers, customer service representatives, etc.) and in order to do the best work that they can, they need their leaders to check in with them and help them.


In a work environment, it's often assumed (or taught in business school), that a leader's role is to check on the progress of work for customers done by others. Checking on often has an unspoken punitive connotation and underlying negative assumption: "People never do what I tell them to do, so I better check on them and make sure that they are on task and not wasting our company's time and money."


The underlying "negative assumption" that people are choosing not to do what they are hired and come to work to do isn't conducive to creating a work environment of trust because neither team members nor leaders believe that the other has their best interests at heart.


Checking in with people to see how they are doing and what you can do to help them, creates trust and promotes cooperation and collaboration. When you, as a leader, assume positive intent, and that the people who work for you are invested in doing their jobs as efficiently and effectively as they can, people will trust you and open up to share the reasons they can't get their work done.


When I was first learning how to practice lean process improvement, I was tasked with leading an event to create standard work for a team that was struggling. I'd never led that type of event before, and the person who was my coach (and head of process improvement for the whole company), flew in to be with me during the event. Because I trusted her completely, I knew that she wasn't coming to check on me and assess what I was doing negatively or assign blame. I knew that she was coming to check in with me, and offer help and guidance as needed. She assumed that I would do my best, and also that there would be areas I needed help with as it was my first time facilitating this work.


As a leader, it's your job to check in with the people you lead and make sure that they have what they need to be successful in their job: tools, training, clear directions, work standards and a safe work physical and psychological environment in which they can be who they authentically are.


Checking in with people on a daily basis, asking "how" they are doing, looking for ways to help and then helping them, creates trust and forms the basis of strong working relationships.


So please, as a leader, remember, checking in isn't micromanagement. It's what leaders at work and at home are supposed to do, and it's kind!

 

To learn more about how to create trust, and how to check in with your people, please see Chapter 6 of The Kind Leader: A Practical Guide to Eliminating Fear, Creating Trust and Leading with Kindness.

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