Gift Your Time

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What if I were to say that I gave a local charity one thousand dollars? What would be the response? I imagine people would think it gracious, give me a pat on the back, and go on with their day. Now, what if I said that I spent a full day tutoring kids at a homeless shelter? Once again, I think I would get the same response, but it might end with a feeling of motivation. A sense of maybe “I should do something.”

This is interesting because, on paper, these two efforts are not equal. My time is nowhere close to being worth one thousand dollars. In fact, with that money, they could have hired a full-time tutor for two weeks. So why would the second scenario invoke the same, or possibly greater, emotional reaction than the first?

The answer is that time is a non-renewable resource. People recognize that money comes and goes, but time is a gift that can’t be regifted. That’s why, in the office, it is so important to be available to your employees. Your presence/absence doesn’t go unnoticed. It plays a role in the daily culture of the team. It impacts moral, happiness, comradery, etc. If you want a productive, happy, and passionate team, make yourself available.

I do this in a couple of ways:
Interact Face to Face – This is priceless. My team works in an open office environment, so I make sure my desk is right in the mix. When I’m onsite, I encourage my group to interrupt me at any time. When I’m offsite, I try to converse via video chat. This is much more intimate than email or traditional phone calls.
Schedule Time Regularly – Every two weeks I set aside an hour for every team member to get a pulse on the team. I use this time to get to know the individual as well as provide coaching as needed. My next post will dig deeper into this platform.
Provide Undivided Attention – When I am talking with one of my employees, I make sure to stop doing anything else. I don’t check emails or flip through my phone. I make them the priority. If you don’t do this, they will see that they are not the priority, and that will change your interactions in the future. If you need to finish what you are working on, it is much more respectful to ask them if you can finish. It has been my experience that no one will have a problem with that.
Don’t Appear Busy – This is probably the hardest one. Being a good leader means you are busy. However, if your employees are constantly exposed to how busy you are, they may feel hesitation about disrupting you. I recommend that if you want time for zero disruptions, use your calendar and block off time slots for focus. All other time encourage interruptions. Your team will be very responsive to this.

Time is the best gift you can give to your team, but it’s also sometimes the hardest commodity to come by. Time is scarce but the real truth is there wasn’t more of it yesterday than there is today. There is still the same number of minutes today as there will be tomorrow. The difference isn’t time, it’s priority. If you want to make time for your employees to raise morale and happiness, you need to make it a priority. Can that email wait until tomorrow? My guess is that it probably could.

Thanks for reading. If you have any experiences you would like to share, I would love to hear about them. Please leave them in the comments below.

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