Manage better by getting to know members of your team in their working environment.
Picture a boss in a lavish office with sumptuous leather furniture and wood-paneled walls. He's sitting behind a huge desk full of important work that needs his attention. He's far too busy to be concerned with anything outside his office walls: there's enough happening within!
This type of boss can be intimidating and unapproachable. Yet, this is a common scenario in many organizations.
What type of boss would you like to be? Do you want to be remote and bask in your own importance? Or do you want to know what's happening out there "in the trenches"?
As a boss, you can be admired for your wisdom, knowledge and expertise without being distant and disconnected.
If you build a wall around yourself, your team may not gain from your experience, and this can undermine problem solving and decision making. Being connected can be a major factor for success: The more connected you are, the better you can understand what motivates members of your team, analyze what's really going on, and find solutions that meet the needs of your people and your company.
To get connected and stay connected, you need to walk around and talk to your team, work alongside them, ask questions, and be there to help when needed. This practice has been called Management By Wandering Around (or Management By Walking About) – MBWA for short.
William Hewlett and David Packard, founders of Hewlett Packard (HP), famously used this approach in their company. Tom Peters, in his wildly successful 1982 book In Search of Excellence, included lessons learned from HP and other companies that used a similar style – and the term MBWA immediately became popular.
Since then, Management By Wandering Around has never really gone out of fashion. If you use MBWA, you can increase the following:
Despite its obvious benefits, use of MBWA has been hit-and-miss. To be successful, it takes more than simply strolling through your office, warehouse, or production facility. MBWA isn't a "walk in the park": It's a determined and genuine effort to understand your staff, what they do, and what you can do to make their work more effective.
Don't just do MBWA because you feel it's an obligation – this probably won't work very well. You have to truly want to get to know your staff and operations, and you have to commit to following up concerns and seeking continuous improvement.
These "wandering around" tips can help you get started:
To implement MBWA throughout your company, consider making it one element of your managers' performance evaluations. What gets measured gets done! If supervisors work far away from the staff they manage, consider moving them, or giving them a second office that's closer to where the work is done. If managers work near their staff, they may be more approachable.
Management By Wandering Around can be an effective and practical way to keep up with what's happening within your team and your organization.
Make the effort to get out and build relationships with your staff. This can pay off significantly with the information you'll gather and the trust you'll build. A team spirit can naturally develop when you show a genuine interest in your people and their work. It's also a great way to keep the company's vision alive at all levels. It's easy, economical. and a whole lot of fun!
How can you use Management By Wandering Around to help you achieve your leadership goals? Ask yourself the following:
Many of these tips were suggested by Mind Tools Club members, who discussed MBWA there in the Career Cafe forum. So thanks again to Shackledog, lulu, weeze, and chepkemoi!
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