Marci, the manager of a sporting goods specialty store, told our Leadership Development Lab (LDL):
“Over the past ten years, I developed the habit of making a beeline to my desk when I arrived at work first thing in the morning. I would then work my way through the endless piles of paperwork and other small tasks for the day, in hopes that when I finished my paperwork, I would then have time remaining to spend with my associates, department managers, and floor people. The reality was that by the end of the day, I was still working on my normal tasks, had not yet found the top of my desk, and had still not made the opportunity to talk with our store team members.
“Six weeks ago I decided to make a change. When I arrived at work, I set my things on my desk and immediately walked the store, looking for the good things my crew had accomplished in the past 24 hours. My walks have given me firsthand experience with the general appearance of our store. My new approach is allowing me to build real relationships with my graveyard team, which I now see for about one hour before they leave every day.
“Now, as our day team arrives, I am able to acknowledge their efforts, comment on their successes, and give praise when and where acknowledgment is deserved. Praise is much more enjoyable to receive when they know I have taken the time to really notice their contributions firsthand. This has also given my team members an opportunity to express their views and concerns to me. They seem to feel more empowered, knowing that I am proactively seeking opportunities to see them on a daily basis.
“The lesson I learned from my new approach to my job as store manager is that what I find important is not always what my employees feel is important, and that there is no way I can really understand their world unless I get out and mix it up with them on a daily basis.
“The action I call you to take is break your old routines. Get out from behind your desk and out of your comfort zone. Mix it up with your team. Look for the good your people do, and be the first to acknowledge it.
“The benefit you will gain is healthy, earned respect from your team members, and ever increasing productivity.”
This practice of getting out with the team is so important that it has even earned an acronym, MBWA – Managing by Wandering Around. I like to call it “Walk-About Leadership,” and you can read more examples in 15 Principles of Engaging Leadership, in the chapter on Leadership Principle #4: Provide Acknowledgement. The question is, what are your routines, what are your practices? Are there members of your team who feel ignored, overlooked and undervalued? Honestly ask yourself these questions, or, if you have the courage, ask your team if they would like to see you a little more often. You may be amazed at the results you can achieve by just wandering around.