Secret Mistake Many Managers Make

Have you ever told your team that you are always available for them?  And you genuinely believe it? Why could this be a mistake?

“My door is always open”, except that is when it is closed, I have visitors, I am out of the office again, taking an important call……

Hmm, is  this your dilemma?  Do you want to do the best for your team but find yourself pulled in lots of different directions.  Result?  You worry about not having the time to complete your own important targets, feel harassed, frustrated and like a hamster on a wheel going round and round.

Do you sometimes wish they would all go away?!

Now in some respects being constantly available isn’t necessarily the best thing: it could be a barrier to people using their own initiative.  After all it is much quicker and involves less effort for the boss just to tell them what to do.  Pity, as giving them directions all day stops your employees’ growth.  And being constantly available could land you in being referee to sort out pettiness when people can just work it out for themselves.

Getting the balance right

Do you find it difficult to get the balance right and be sufficiently available for your team?  Do you feel pressured by your own duties?  Perhaps you need to analyse and create reports, undertake policy matters or  direct client liaison and so on.  It is no wonder that you want to retreat into your office.  Has it become normal for you to stay there?  Have you become remote, losing that essential human connection with your team…

But here’s the rub: your team will perceive your availability quite differently from your intention.  Your actions shout loudly when they are different from what you tell your team.

“Well we never see him down here.  How can he possibly understand what’s going on?” complained some operators to me about their manager.

They felt that their worries and suggestions were being sidelined and that they were not important enough for the manager to walk around the plant even once a day.  Result: some disenchanted employees who never got to sound out their great ideas for plant improvement, squashing their natural enthusiasm.

Why not try Management By Walking Around (MBWA)? 

Well, my manager friend, this involves you randomly checking in with your team members about how things are going.  And you need to see them at their work station frequently, as well as at any scheduled meetings that you may have.  See them doing their work in a natural way.   MBWA is not a particularly new concept but it still does have merit.

Employees often view their “closeted” managers as aloof, even intimidating.  Consciously take the opportunity to connect with your team.  You will be amazed at how much you can learn from them and find out what is really going on.

OK, so you have a desk full of work that you need to attend to and deadlines to meet.  But it is very important to really get to know your team well.  Get a clear understanding of their strengths, abilities and, of course, get to know when people need explanations and help.

Sound time consuming?  Actually this method to reduces your workload and frustration whilst you gain a perspective on individual performance.

Don’t just walk through the office or plant on your way out to the car park.  You need to really engage with people and actively listen to what they have to say.  Avoid the method beloved of some military types “Any complaints?”

Be approachable, informal and be genuinely interested in each of your team members.

Your employees’ ideas are valuable

Use their grass root perspective to help you with ideas for improvements.  You can gain valuable insight into what actually happens, how plant and systems really work and how customers and suppliers behave.  Ensure that you follow up any concerns and listen to negative comments as these give you valuable insight to morale.

Remember too that a great idea doesn’t mind who thought of it.  Your team members can have some excellent ideas for new products, system modifications and are more likely to share them with you if they are able to talk to you informally during the day.  You probably won’t implement all of the suggestions that come your way, but you will encourage your team by talking things through.  In this way, you encourage their involvement. Ultimately this will improve motivation and performance.

Be careful to talk to everyone at some point  

MBWA is more than chatting to people with the same interests as you.  Talking about football or fashion, is easy but remember that the quiet person is also deserving of your attention.  Walking around gives you the chance to share company vision and values in a practical and natural way.

Equally, make sure that you aren’t in anyone’s face and definitely avoid micro-management!

When you use this technique, you have the added bonus of identifying people to train up to do some of your tasks.  Delegating in the right way enhances your team’s development, a step towards succession planning and not least takes away some of your work burden so that you can MBWA!  You will also gain the trust of your workforce and develop great team spirit where everyone can enjoy their job.

I love Dilbert: look at this!  http://bit.ly/2eWMbOu

©Christine de Caux 2016 All rights reserved

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