Catch Your Staff Doing Something Right

Joan Schramm

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A long time ago, I learned something about being a manager that has proven to be one of the most valuable lessons I’ve ever heard.

You can’t manage people from inside your office. You have to be out and about, talking to your staff and co-workers, and seeing and hearing what’s going on out there. It’s called “Management By Walking Around”, or MBWA.

Technology has been a huge asset to the workplace, but it’s also made us a little lazy and disconnected. How many times do you e-mail someone in the next office, or down the hall, instead of getting up and walking over there? Or you fax a document instead of carrying it to the person who needs it? People need personal contact and with e-mail and fax machines and cell phones and ATM’s and self check out lines in the supermarket, we’re getting less and less human contact every day. If you’re the boss, it’s even more important that you spend in-person time with your staff – there’s no substitute for face-to-face contact.

If you’re new to MBWA, your staff won’t know how to react and you may get stiff, monosyllabic answers at first. Persevere and show genuine interest and you’ll get the results you’re looking for. No one wants the boss standing over them and watching what they do, so when you practice MBWA have some simple questions or comments in mind. For example,

1. What’s the most critical thing you’re working on right now? Is there anything I can do to make the project easier to complete?

2. How’s the Jones report coming along? Any problems with making the deadline?

3. I’m impressed with your latest proposal, Karen. I know this project is a lot of extra work and long hours and I appreciate your commitment and flexibility.

4. Hey, Bob, I see you have some vacation time coming up. Do you have any special plans?

5. I saw that movie you recommended – what great special effects! Thanks for the tip!

Remember, keep it simple, short, casual and positive. Save the negative comments for a more private time and place. If one of your staff members brings up an interesting subject that sounds like it will take a while, invite her or him for a cup of coffee and set aside some time to really give justice to the topic.

As a manager, it’s easy to get caught up in your administrative duties and project responsibilities but the time spent away from your office and interacting with your staff will yield far greater results. It takes time and effort to build and maintain a balanced, effective workforce; take the initiative and you’ll be rewarded with an atmosphere of trust and openness that will spell success for any organization.

When you talk to your staff, do you really listen to them? Try this. Every Friday afternoon write down three things you learned from your staff during the week. If you can’t list at least three things a week, you’re probably not listening carefully enough.

Looking for more career advice?

Joan Schramm is a career, executive and personal coach with twenty years experience in management, training and coaching. Joan can work with you to figure out exactly what you want from your life and your career, and how to get there without a lot of detours.

For more information about Joan, or to talk about what’s going on in your career, e-mail , or go to . Sign up for a free monthly newsletter, “Angular Momentum" and take a free Job Satisfaction Assessment.


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