You never know what baggage people bring to work every day. No matter how well things seem to be going, you can bet that something is lurking in the background. You just don’t know what it is.
Some people are great at compartmentalizing and can have productive days even if something personally challenging is happening concurrently. Others will sit at their desks and stare into space, completely unaware of anything going on around them.
Both types – and everything in between – are represented in your teams every day. Good leaders tune into and are sensitive to what might be going on with their people. If appropriate, they can discreetly inquire about someone’s well-being.
But it isn’t appropriate for leaders to turn into therapists and try to diagnose what might be wrong with someone. Obviously, you want to show compassion for your colleagues, but you need to know when you exceed what is appropriate.
Employees will always feel more engaged when their leaders show a personal interest in them. They feel more satisfied that they are “real people” and not just anonymous employee #324.
For example, if someone mentions that he is going to a family reunion on his vacation and you ask about the reunion when he returns, he will feel heard. This seemingly small and innocuous example is exactly the kind of thing that builds the foundation for a relationship that is more personal than institutional.
When a leader feels more connected to her employees, it becomes much easier to tune into them as a matter of course. Master this and your employees will feel more connected and perceive you more openly.