A few weeks ago, a newly minted manager asked my advice on how to best manage by walking around. I gave him an encouraging – but non-specific – answer. This post is my follow-up to his question.
Your employees may worry that you’re spying on them the first few times that you show up. If you make wandering a regular on-going event, people will get more comfortable over time. But please, don’t put it on your calendar for the same time every month.
Go by yourself
You’ll be tempted to bring your trusted advisor; the one that comes to those important meetings and takes notes for you. Don’t. The only way to be authentic is to remove your protection and open yourself up.
Listen first, talk later
The old adage is that you have two ears and one mouth. Use them in that proportion. Unfortunately, most of the people only have heard you talk, not listen. When you do talk, ask simple open-ended questions that encourage them to talk.
Be constructive, not critical
If you point out mistakes that people are making, it might be viewed as embarrassing rather than helpful. They’ll remember the criticism and will less likely provide feedback the next time.
Don’t make promises unless you’re absolutely sure that you can keep them. Instead, show you were listening by following up afterwards – even if you can’t fix the issues that came up. And don’t forget to thank people for their time before you leave.
It’s never too early in your career to start managing by walking around. In fact, it’s never too late either.