Setting the tone for the day begins almost immediately as you walk through the door. I can remember when my boss would arrive ‘on campus’, the call of “The Eagle Has Landed”…would roll through the facility, everyone knew to step it up a notch. (I like to think the same warning was called when I took over her position, it’s nice to know people pay attention when you come around.)
Getting to a point where your team responds to your presence is an admirable hat tip that you have an impact on your team’s behavior and performance. They want to show their best selves when you come around. If you come in and immediately begin working on “your stuff”, you become engrossed in only “your stuff”. Over time, you present yourself as one who is out of touch. I can picture this exact person…they give the vibe that they have so much to do, so much on their plate, so much they are responsible for. Employees eventually get the hint…they aren’t going to ‘bother you’. They will begin to start looking at you as someone who is detached from the reality of what they do, an outsider. Even if this isn’t your intent.
I get that you actually ARE IN FACT SWAMPED! But, if you are earning the reputation of someone who is disconnected, it’s most likely because you aren’t making the effort with them on their turf…in the trenches, checking in and feeling the vibe. This is how you connect with their everyday.
Tending to the people you are responsible for is often overlooked by managers. Yet, it’s very challenging to be “head of operations” if you have no idea as to the successes and challenges of the ‘executors of the operations’. “But my door is always open.” That’s great. And those should be your parting words once you’ve checked in with them: “My door is always open”. Translation: “I want to hear what you have to say.” They know you mean it because of what your actions tell them.
If you do this sporadically that’s what you will get in return. Your team will not buy in to your concern, you will most likely receive short, sometimes curt replies, almost verbal dismissals. Commit to do this everyday and you will begin to get real answers, begin to solve real problems. Your people will take you seriously. Anyone can ask a time or two, it’s the dedication to asking, everyday poses a new set of stakes. It is imperative as time marches on, that employees feel a connection to their leader, that can only happen if YOU make it happen.
Get in the trenches, where the boots on the ground are. Be ready to hear truth. There will be many times where nothing earth shattering will present itself, but the fact that you showed up and asked keeps that connective thread very real.
Walking The Floor: An Unsung Hero's Task
The reason ‘walking the floor’ ‘making the rounds’ ‘checking in’…whatever you coin it…is so challenging is because it takes time. It takes effort, it can feel redundant depending on responses, and it can feel exhausting (aren’t challenges presented just sometimes complaints? Yes, that happens too). So, it is one of the parts of management and leadership that you will swiftly see take a backseat once a leader feels ‘comfortable enough’. These are one of those acts however, that the impact is not always immediately felt, but if it were to go away, it would be incredibly missed, morale would slip incredibly fast. It is an unsung hero’s task, but it is so vital in the eyes of your team that not many actions you can take have as significant an ROI on your time spent. Have you ever skipped doing rounds? Don’t you feel a bit guilty as you happen to ‘bump into’ people later in the day? I know I would…I always felt like I cheated them out of my time. Whenever I felt like cutting that corner I suppressed that feeling and went on my rounds.
This very important interaction can even be measured! How many times did I walk the floor this week? How many people did I interact with? If that helps you feel better about it, then employ that data! Make it work for you! I’ve included as part of this article a free download of a Leader’s Checklist. This will provide you with a visual and physical tool that you can incorporate into your day. Whenever we want to integrate a new habit or process, tools like a checklist provide that prompt we need before we hardwire it into our brains as automatic.
The other 3 steps in this checklist will help you lead better now! They are the only 4 steps you need to get better at leading today…its simple yet effective. Your part: committing to doing the 4 steps everyday (Hence, the checklist...CLICK HERE!!).
The impact may not be as easily measured, but it can be revealed if you engage the team in assessments. For example, asking: Do they feel supported by a manager, and the answer is no, then there is a disconnect there between caring for the team and understanding their plight. How can you change that metric around? Be more in tune with your employees. How do you be more in tune? Connect with them…their day to day is part of your day to day. You are in this together.
Your job responsibilities do not matter if their’s cannot be done, if they feel unsupported, if they are hesitant to approach you because of your continuous air of ‘busyness’. Creating time for them first and then moving on with your MIT (most important thing) will cultivate an understanding of give and take. When you need some time, people get it and give it gladly.