Seth Godin’s post on Empathy sat me down to pound out this post on something I did frequently while managing IT Teams at a previous employer. Very simple but unconventional.
I’d sit at their desks.
That might sound creepy, so let me explain.
I’m an early-riser, early-to-work fellow and there would often be some time before my team arrived in the morning. Using that time to catch up on email was a waste (the inbox would only fill up again). Moreover, sometimes it would take 15-20 minutes just for the laptop to boot (lots of required cruft on those things).
I’d walk down the row of cubes where my team was located and have a seat somewhere. Think of it as a way of being in your employee’s shoes for a bit. You don’t need to touch a thing. Look around at her work area. What’s important to this person? Does she have pictures up? The latest Dilbert? Something ancient from UserFriendly? The vi-to-emacs translation table?
What books are on her shelves? Does she have a plant? How is the task light oriented? What can she see from her chair? Who are her neighbors? Are they all members of the team or is she on the border with another? Is this walkway heavily traveled?
Remember, you don’t have to touch a thing. Just observe and think. Pray for this person (or whatever your tradition).
Build empathy. Your employees are more than just awesome technologists. They’re people too, with hopes, dreams, backgrounds, families, aspirations and outside interests.