One of the most important aspects of a manager is to share a common bond with the team. At middle management level the best bond element that works for me is - Crib about the system. This does not necessarily mean bad mouthing the company, but cribbing about cracks, red tapes in the system sends a vibe across the team that every one is battling the same "dinosaur" ("monkey" apparently drives an unintended pun these days to cricketing people) - the limitations that restrict the good work done by us as a team and the creative ways we need to adapt to be the best in circumstances.
One thing that I always see it working is to make people see genuineness in the manager. I look for empathy from my bosses about the system(see it is a common bond at higher levels also) and trust that people looking to me as a manager expect the same. Few good to heart initiatives I suggest because they have worked for me are:
1. One to One: I learnt it in my first company from my bosses who were disciplined and diligent in giving due importance to this meeting.
They use to manage it with recurring advanced meeting requests , apology emails (once in a while with proper rescheduling if required), asking what we can expect from next one-one meetings.
Few things that was never attempted and should never be done are:
1. Do not attempt at improving the quality of interaction in first few meetings. The bonds needs to be established first. The agenda and discussions will go awry. It is better to let it pass till the discussion carries itself forward. There can NEVER be a case where One to One will ever become bitter.
2. Never postpone a meeting as an initiator. If there is no topic or no need for a discussion, all it takes is a 5 minutes talk to listen to agenda and set next course of action.
2. Throw a Party: Something I really love to arrange or get done, is to throw a party suiting the audience style. Include everyone involved to make your life easier. Socialization is the best way for slipping the team to a "comfort zone". It has been the biggest teacher for me to know the "dialect" of the group. The way the team behaves, understands, and reacts are important aspects for a manager to not miss as much as deadlines, efforts. However efforts, deadlines, logs, issues, risks are manager's "dialects". Expectation of conformance to a foreign dialect with a team is downright insensitivity.
3. Follow up on smaller group parties: A genuineness can only be established by repetitive action. Once in a blue moon or sudden surprises get branded as "mood swings" of manager. Hence whenever possible, take smaller groups which are naturally formed wings of the team out for a party. It is important to be in team's familiar surrounding and see their potential.
4. Ensure that project party "overdue" is organized by you: Organizations need to be most happening place to spend most of the waking time. Hence "fun" theme events of HR are not inclusive models of team building exercise. It is important that teams "feel" the bond, live the life in office rather than earn the living. Hence if the team you inherit has a long overdue project celebration, that is the best moment to show the capability to make people look to you at having excelled in doing something that was given not to happen in their life with the company.
How did you participate with your team today ?