Making the Rounds - August 2022

Making the Rounds - August 2022

It can be easy to slip into “check-the-box” rounding with employees: “How’s it going? Everything good? Great, keep up the good work!” Just because you talked to someone does not mean you rounded. It’s more than that. Think of rounding as intentional communication to drive engagement and improvement.

The concept is based on the model of doctors’ rounds with their hospital patients. In focused discussions during patient rounding, doctors assess what is helping and what is not. They make a connection, look for clues to understand a problem, identify solutions, and make the best use of the team. Patient rounding is not meant to replace an annual physical or tests for other unrelated medical issues any more than your leadership rounding is meant to replace your other performance management interactions like coaching, goal setting, performance reviews, etc. Rounding is its own carved out opportunity for quality dialogue.

 As you reflect on your rounding skills, consider: 

It starts with purposeful questions. If you don’t have organizationally prescribed questions, here are a couple of my favorites:
  1. What are three things that are going well for you here and one thing that could be improved? This “3 good things” model doubles as a resilience builder, rewiring our brains to be on the lookout for the positive, something it can need a bit of prodding to do. Make sure you follow up on what you hear.
  2. Is there anyone here who has been particularly helpful to you or gone above and beyond the call to support you in your work here? Make it a point to recognize that person for their support on behalf of your employee.

For inspiration for more great questions, look at your employee opinion/engagement survey items. If there is a particular area you are working on, create a question related to it so that you can take a pulse on how your action plans are leading to improvement. While social interactions matter, it’s the intentional questions-and the data that they provide you-that differentiates rounding from other communications.

Think of rounding as more than a task to do: It is a way to be.  Take the moments you are spending in these conversations to pay attention to how you are being fully present, undistracted, and demonstrating great listening.

Use rounding as a way to teach people what they can expect from you.  If you fix something that was brought up during rounding, by all means tell people you fixed it! There is a place to be humble, but it is not humility when you follow up on requested action items but no one ever knows you did it. Make that connection back to the request and tell people, “You brought up a need for X and I want you to know that I followed up and X is arriving on Monday.” Or, “You brought up a need for X, and after looking into it, I realized that fixing things with X would cause another problem. Let me walk you through the thinking and then discuss possible alternative solutions.”

Carve out the time for it and honor it.  This follows the great advice of, “do the hard thing first,” especially if it is someone you are not looking forward to rounding with. Here is where having structured questions, as well as looking for the good, can help you. It keeps you focused, redirects the negative, and treats everyone fairly.

You can round even if it is not a sanctioned initiative in your organization.  Depending on how many employees you have, you might start rounding with each employee for 10-20 minutes quarterly. Prepare them by letting them know you’re coming, what you’ll be asking and why.

Boundaries blurring? Rounding can morph into a time trap when issues come up beyond the questions you have prepared people for. That’s ok, to a point. If this happens a lot it might mean that employees are needing more from you, or that you have not set the stage clearly for what rounding is meant to be. Those are both opportunities for you to fine-tune how you communicate with employees and how accessible you make yourself.




Jo Anne Preston In Jo Anne's current role as Organizational and Workforce Development Senior Manager at the Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative (RWHC) her aim is to offer to leaders straightforward tools and inspire the courage to use them.
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