…it is All About Just Walking Around

I can’t believe this guy. He did not show any concern as to why I was leaving. He is the CXX and he had three people leave within the past month, plus me. And with all of us, there was no inquiry or concern as to why.

When I tried to steer the conversation to the office environment, he countered as if it was all our fault. Totally clueless.

That was a conversation that I had recently with a coach of mine.  After that conversation, I thought about leadership and the message it sends.  One of the MAJOR competencies of leadership is to listen and be hyper-alert to what is going on around you. That is basic and more so each day in the climate that we are in.

Manage by connecting

I am a big proponent of “MBWA” — managing by walking around vs. emailing from behind closed doors, and if you are a leader, please take note.

You should have your pulse on your organization or the department at your fingertips. You should have (or at least have some semblance of) an idea as to what your organizational issues are.

Management by walking around is the technique of stopping by to talk with people face to face, get a sense of how they think things are going, and listen to whatever may be on their minds. Notice the word LISTEN.  MBWA can be as simple as engaging with key people within your organization to get a pulse.

Listen is the operative word. The manager in the conversation above basically did not want to listen but only waiting for an opportunity to respond.

One of my mantras is that if you are a manager and one of your team members walks in and resigns, and you are surprised/shocked, you have not done a good job of managing. Think for a minute when you go home to your significant other, or your kids for that matter, you can always feel when there is something amiss, especially if you are married. You notice the body language, the short, clipped answer, and the non-direct stare.

All of these are tell-tale signs that you can read like a road map. That is, they are if you want to be considered a great manager.

Insight is not driven by TITLE

Part of your leadership routine should be having informal chats, not only with your team members but everyone within your organization. Being in HR, I enjoyed my chats with the mailroom folks, the drivers, the kitchen help. Albeit, this was pre-COVID.

Insight is not driven by title. Build the relationship, and they will come.

What happens after some time is that you become known as the go-to person when your employees have issues. There are no boundaries to this interaction.

When I worked at Martha Stewart, she was famously known for stopping by the desk to see what you were working on. Lots of new employees were, at first, intimidated by her, but over some time, they became used to it.

This connection helps leaders become more visible because they are connecting with their employees, sharing ideas and suggestions. It is a win-win all around.

Checking the pulse

This kind of connection allows leaders to keep a check on the pulse of the organization, as well as keeping your people more engaged and productive the more you visually interact with them. I say “visually” because we all tend to hide behind emails, which have become the basic form of business communication.

My rule is that if the email goes back and forth twice, I get up, walk over or pick up the phone to get the issue resolved. It always bothers me when someone tells me, “Well, I sent an email, and I have not heard back.”  Pick up the phone, set up a zoom call, etc. Get It Done.

In years past, one of my routines was that I would walk the floor mid-morning and afternoon, every day if I could.

During this MBWA, I would stop in at different departments just to check-in. The result was that I stayed on top of rumors, innuendo, disengaged employees, engaged employees, etc. I took it all in and made a mental note.

If someone engages you and asks a question, you have to find out, and no matter what, you must get back to them. You must act on what you are asked as soon as possible to get or gain credibility. This builds trust, which is the glue that holds your entire culture together.

Just listen

The most important aspect of this style of managing is that all you want to do is listen.

Part of listening involves more than just hearing words that are directed at you and providing solutions.

If your views are asked for, respond. If not, just keep them to yourself.

Leaders must make a better effort to engage their reports as well as the rest of the organization. The two most important dynamics in employee engagement are the manager-employee dynamic as well as the culture-employee dynamic. The key, though, is to get the first one correct and let that be the foundation of building, enhancing, or developing the culture.

We are all a part of that organization, and it behooves all of us to take an active role in managing and engaging our workforce. That is basic.

There is no magic wand that will allow you to transverse these basics, there is none and never will be. The hard work begins in one-on-one and one-on-many relationships.

So, start engaging them today, and remember, you should never, ever be surprised if you are truly doing your job as a leader.

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