TSB 002: Most Leaders Have No Idea of What's Really Going On. Here's How to Stay Informed.
August 20, 2022
Read Time: 3 minutes
This week's tip: Don't underestimate your ability to keep your ear to the ground with your team, even if most of you are working remotely.
One of the key mistakes I see leaders making is giving up on the strategic and time-tested practice called Managing by Wandering Around or "MBWA."
Decades ago, savvy leaders started this practice of wandering an unplanned path through team and staff work areas while engaging in impromptu conversations (while being careful not to interrupt work in progress) and listening for ideas, roadblocks, risks, or waste.
Remote work has made this practice a little tricky, but not impossible. Here's how you can adopt it.
Follow-up on New Hires, Major Purchases, and Vacations
Take a moment after you approve a new hire, major purchase, or vacation to add a reminder on your calendar or task list to check in with the requester a few days or a week after the new hire starts, the purchase is scheduled to arrive, or the vacation is over.
When the reminder comes up take the opportunity to wander around, send an email, post a Slack message, or make a call to check in with the requester to see how things are going. Here are a few examples:
“GM Patel, I’m just checking in since we haven’t had a chance to catch up post-vacation. Were you able to unplug and enjoy some relaxation?
“Hey Dan, I know you’re excited about that new equipment coming in, has it arrived yet? . . . Oh, it’s coming next week? Great, keep me posted on when it gets here. I’m hoping it gives you the leverage you’re seeking.
“Hi Vickie, how’s it going with your new hire? Are you feeling good about his ability to hit the ground running?
Then really listen.
Pay attention to what is said, but more to what is NOT said. People have been taught not to complain in the workplace - - and definitely not to the boss. Expect your team to put the best light on the fact that:
- Patel got no rest at all as his team was emailing and texting him his entire vacation.
- Dan’s order has been one problem after another and he’s not sure it will arrive on time or that it will include all the parts.
- Vickie’s new hire showed up, but she is teaching him how to use Outlook and not use all caps in an email.
You’re likely to hear something like this:
- Patel’s vacation was great, but he’s more exhausted than when he left. There’s a lot going on right now, can you chat later?
- Dan is very excited about the equipment and knows he’ll get a lot of leverage from it, but do we have a policy on partial deliveries from vendors, just in case…?
- Vickie’s new hire arrived on time, wearing a conservative blue suit, and he tells great jokes. It’s only been a few days, so she can’t tell if he will be able to hit the ground running yet, she’ll keep you posted.
Be careful not to dive in and fix the problem for them. Just make a note to follow up on your next 1:1 meeting and ask more direct questions about how things are going, how they plan to solve these matters, and how can you best support them.
Buy them a coffee, tea, or snack
Identify opportunities to complement team members on a job well done and find a time to meet for an in-person or virtual coffee to provide the compliment and just check in on how things are going.
If you are going to meet virtually, use a service like Thnks, SugarWish, or SnackMagic to send them a treat.
Take thirty minutes to share your appreciation, and ask them about their work, and what made them so successful in this instance, in particular.
Again, really listen to what’s said, and what’s NOT said. Pay attention to the names of those that helped them to be successful, the barriers they faced, and how they persevered.
This kind of outreach can alert you to risks, uncover areas of disengagement, and help your people feel seen, heard, and appreciated.
See you again next Saturday.
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