Management by Walking Around (MBWA) – in an earlier post, I wrote about the importance of learning, knowing, and using employees’ names. Perhaps the best way to use those names is through the practice of management by walking around. This practice might have roots going back to Abraham Lincoln when he would walk around and check in with his troops during the civil war. It was a way for him to get feedback on how things were going and how he could provide better tools and strategies for his troops.
So, if you care about your troops and want to help them do a better job; then, start walking around. Before you do though, think about these few tips to success:
Be careful that employees won’t perceive your effort as forced or contrived. To the employee, it should be as if you just happened by and are taking an interest in them.
If you must schedule the time on your calendar, do so, but be careful that your intention isn’t telegraphed to your employees.
Ease into it with a few practice runs to perfect your technique.
Treat employees evenly. Don’t only visit with employees you like. Spend time with those who might be troublesome, less likable, or have less in common with you. Only spending time with those you like will cause troubles for you and them.
Get to know people on a personal basis. Look for personal mementos in their work area (e.g. a family picture, baseball pennant, movie poster…). Ask about those things and what they mean to the employee.
Ask how things are going and encourage candid, open and honest communications about how things are going.
Be prepared to receive tough questions.
When a tough question is received, it must be answered. The answer doesn’t need to be immediate. You can always say, “I’ll get back to you on that.”
If you say you will get back to someone – do it! Get back to them with an honest answer.
Have fun! Take your people a little treat every now and then and keep your ear to the ground for how things are going. Show some personality. Tell ‘em a work-appropriate joke. Take another (higher level) manager with you from time to time. Before you know it, they may come to you before they come to you and they’ll come with a problem and the solution.
When will you start walking?