This article about leading by walking around (http://bit.ly/leadbywalking) stimulated recollections about my own experience while working at National Decision Systems. The first three years were the best experience of my career. Why? Because the CEO did exactly as this article suggests. He led by walking around.
He wouldn’t just call people on the phone or send emails. He dropped by their office unannounced and asked thought-provoking questions. Visiting people where they work is an excellent leadership technique to follow and one I made sure to model.
I remember one such visit to my office after turning in my report on the most recent user conference I had run. My first thought was, “Oh, oh. What did I not do right?”
He wanted to know why I thought the conference was successful. How did I measure success? Wow! No one had asked me that before. I had to really think about it. The purpose was to generate new sales, which we did. It was also to get customers more engaged with the products….which we did. So that met two of my measures of success. The 3-day event went smoothly for attendees – that was another measure of my own. Yes, there were hiccups, but only I was aware of them, and I resolved them right away. The customer feedback was also excellent, so that also told me we hit a home run.
Leading by walking around makes an impact
The CEO’s appearance in my office to sit down across from me and ask my input made a real impact on me. I modeled my own leadership that way with my direct reports. Instead of sitting in my office and calling them in, I got up and went to their desks to ask questions and get their input. I did this with people in other departments as well. If I had a question that needed answering, I walked over to their office and asked the question. That action helped me build great working relationships throughout the company and a willingness to help even when it was outside their immediate scope of work. If they knew the answer or how to get it done, they would pitch in.
Leading by walking around helps you build those relationships. You also learn so much because you give others the opportunity to share their knowledge and expertise. This type of technique should not be to deliver bad news or only to give praise. If the only time you visit someone’s office is to do either of these, then eventually the staff gets jaded.
Visit your people in their offices to ask thoughtful questions and find out what they know. You might be very surprised and learn a few things yourself!