When It Comes to Good Management, It’s 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 exit interview or anything.

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

After that conversation, I to concur that one of the hallmarks of a great leader is the ability to LISTEN. If your organization is suffering withdrawal and your turnover is inching up, you should be concerned. That is a basic.

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.

Listen is the operative word. The manager in the conversation above basically did not want to listen and was 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, you notice the short, clipped answer, you notice 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 as 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.

Insight is not driven my title. What happens after a period of time is that you become known as the go-to person when your employees have issues. There are no boundaries on 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 a period of 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 on 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.”

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Let your efforts be part of the 21st century water cooler. One of my other management routines was that I would walk the floor mid-morning and mid-afternoon, each and 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, your duty is 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 hold your entire culture together.

Just listen

The most important aspect of this style of managing is that all you want to do is listen. My daughter told me one time “Dad, will you just listen? I do not want your advice all the time; I just want you to listen.” That’s a great point, since part of listening involves more than just hearing words that are directed at you and providing solutions.

If you 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 a basic.

There is no magic wand that will allow you to transverse these basics. There never was and never will be. The hard work begins in the one-on-one and one-on-many relationships.

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

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.

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