So what do you think the most important gift you have for your employees? Industry knowledge? Leadership abilities? Organisational experience? Nope none of these. They all have their place certainly. The most important thing you can give to your employees is nothing more simple that your time.

There is no doubt working days are time poor for ourselves and others. As a senior leader, when did you last examine how much of your time you give to your teams and reports? I don’t mean ad hoc moments, but actual high-quality undistracted time? The chances are it isn’t as much as you would like to believe it is. Even dedicated one to one time isn’t perhaps as high quality as it could be. There are many reasons for this. Yet your leadership time is the most valuable gift you can give to employees and teams

Determining what is quality time

A snatched 5 minutes here, a catch up over lunch there, a conversation at the end of the day all might seem like quality time but they aren’t. It might feel like you are doing the right thing by fitting employees into your schedule, but in fact you aren’t. I frequently hear from employees I train that they don’t have dedicated quality time with their line managers.

Quality time is about undivided attention. This time to the employee is special, productive or profitable for them. Where the line manager is giving their full attention because they see the relationship as important. This quality time is NO different to the quality time you might give a spouse or a child. When was the last time you gave your employees this kind of attention? If employees are performing for you, don’t they deserve such time? Whilst coaching is often done informally, having dedicated 60-90 minute slots of time is done so for a reason. It gives importance to the conversation.

Undistracted quality time

Snatched moments are not undistracted quality time. You bring to these times baggage from the meeting you have just attended or the report which is due. Setting aside undistracted time is set in places and rooms where people, technology and ‘stuff’ isn’t impinging. Mobiles and laptops (theirs and yours) are left in situ, unable to disturb. Other paperwork apart from a note pad do not travel with you. Outlook calendars are marked out as ‘private’. This shows the importance of the time and the focus you will be giving it. It shows your people that they are important.

Not your agenda

Feedback from coachees I work with value two things. One – quality time with their line manager. Two – a conversation about their agenda and needs, not their line managers. These are both critical. If the employee has booked time to meet with you it’s because there is something important to them which they want to discuss with you. Your job is to be present and Listen. Parking any agenda or thinking you have at that time. When was the last time to actually sat and listened to employees without interruption?

What is your mindset and role?

It is fair to say based on experiences of managers, most managers see their role as being ‘fixers’, problem solving extraordinaires. Apart from listening, your role is to ask questions to explore and understand your employee and what they are bringing. Developing your own mindset to be one of helping them to gain the clarity and direction they need and not what you think to be right. By doing this you letting the employee know that what they are sharing is important to you. You are demonstrating you are present with them. A manager who has trained as a coach clearly recognises the value of what questions and listening bring to a conversation.

Having a mind like a parachute – works best when open!

We all come to situations will preconceived ideas and we will make many an assumption. We often can’t help ourselves. Leaders especially need to be as less subjective as possible to see something from multiple angles. In doing so they are not pre-determining their response to what is being shared. It allows them to listen, process and respond to the employee rather than react. Yes you may have a possible answer or solution for them. But, this is your answer, not theirs. It might fit their situation for them, it might not.

Wins all round

You may well recognise some of your own traits in this article. By simply changing your mindset and approach to giving your precious time to employees you impact on so many area. Trust is enhanced, employee engagement increases, relationships improve, communications styles developed. There will be increases in people focus in your teams and employees will feel valued, hence performance will also increase.

Finally, your ability as a people leader will evolve and grow, adding to each future employee conversation you will have. All this simply by giving employees quality time.

What’s stopping you from giving quality time?

If you recognise you aren’t giving quality time, you need to begin to examine what’s stopping you. Are your work practices in efficient? Where are people in your list of priorities? Are you trying to do too much rather than utilising your team? Whatever the reason, the start point of change is assessing your own leadership abilities, skills and priorities.

Interested in developing your coaching skills as a senior managers, or recognise the need in your line reports? Check out our course page today. Create change in yourself and your people.

Nick Howell has trained and coached hundreds of leaders and managers to help them be the leader they aspire to be for themselves and their organisations. He uses knowledge gained these experiences to inform and develop leaders, through his articles, coaching and training practice.