How often do you think you should be “seen” by your team? When should you be available to your team if they want to talk to you? Those keeping to the confines of their office may appear unapproachable or intimidating. And although sometimes that can feel like the better option, so work can be done and there are less interruptions, opportunities are also missed.
Leaders have so much knowledge and experience they can share with their team. Going out into the workplace, and having conversations with the team will help them develop. Additionally, you can spot any potential problems that you wouldn’t be able to otherwise.
Talking to your team, working alongside them, and asking questions, gets you valuable information from the front-line that you can’t get any other way.
When I was running a contact centre, I invited all senior executives to sit with the team at least once, and it was amazing the insights they got from the experience. New products, new systems and new processes were introduced from understanding this perspective.
But it’s not just about being “seen”, it’s a strategic decision and needs leadership skills to be effective. It requires active listening, collaboration, communication, motivation and engagement skills. And listening to ideas, gathering information and providing solutions all require a level of confidence.
Leaders can be intimidating to others, just by the nature of their job title and status. Encouraging an atmosphere of trust and willingness to share ideas, listening to concerns and key pressure points, brings a new level of team work.
Giving team members the opportunity to be heard can be motivational, as well as inspiring a level of accountability as actions you agreed together are more likely to be achieved.
A word of warning here though, while you’re walking around: and that’s for requests for your action. Our minds can hold two things in our working memory at any one time. You may have remembered the first request, then the second, but the third….? Have a pen and paper (or technology!) with you to make a note as they are asked. Or, if necessary, ask them to email you. But don’t expect to remember them all in your memory alone!!
That was the thinking, now the walking and talking. And getting it right is important:
- People will spot if you are only doing it because you feel have to.
- Be relaxed and more informal in your conversations. It’s OK to share a joke and chat about hobbies etc to build a relationship.
- Investigate concerns and problems quickly, and be seen to be following up on actions.
- Be open and curious, ask questions – listen more than you talk.
- Aim not to become defensive, be truthful or explain if you can’t share something.
- Share news, your aims and company goals, so that people know where they are in the bigger picture.
- Build a trusting environment where learning from mistakes is encouraged.
- Recognise successes and good work
- Negative feedback should still be done in private, and tailor your approach if offering suggestions in front of co-workers.
- Cover all your departments or teams, so that nobody feels left out.
Walking, talking (and thinking!) is an effective way of keeping up to date with what’s happening in your organisation. When you have a genuine interest, they can bring you invaluable insight, and you can bring them experience and knowledge.