In my last job, I was the only executive to move out of my office onto the floor (into the cubes) with my employees.
Everyone was surprised by my move. I explained that I did this primarily to better understand their worlds – what they deal with successfully and unsuccessfully – to better know now to coach, mentor and teach them. “Hiding” in my office kept me disconnected from what mattered most to my employees (and ultimately for customers and results).
Sure, I miss the privacy and the ability to close my door and think, but I have exchanged it for building a strong connection with my people and getting better at being a “trench instructor” and a “trench manager.” And I think most days my employees really appreciate this new approach.
Here are some of the things that happened when I have moved out of my office and into my employees’ space:
- Employee discussions are now turned into learning events. When two employees are sharing ideas of how to handle a client, I can step in and guide the discussion to be productive, respectful and solutions-based (no one did this with them before). With a department of strong personalities, it was not uncommon for these employee discussions to migrate to raised voices and unproductive arguments. They are now starting to solve their issues, not just talk about them. They are learning to keep the discussion about the topic and behaviors, not about personalities. Practical, on-the-spot learning.
- We started watching more for and celebrating successes. Many times great ideas were glossed over and never noticed or applauded – nobody drew attention to them or learned from them. (Most organizations I know spend more time looking for problems than looking for successes – both are teachable events.) This way, I was able to catch employees doing great things and post it on our Brag Board. An example from this week is a senior sales employee joined a call with a junior sales employee to fill in the missing details and close an excellent account. The senior employee shared great ideas; the junior employee learned how to handle a tough client situation – and the organization earned a new client. Success on all fronts.
- Employees who spent a bit too much time texting and chatting (and there were some of these), have stopped the habit. Call it intimidation or call it learning, the behavior changed.
- Our meetings just became significantly more effective. Weekly meetings that used to review changes/challenges/opportunities now become more effective with actual events, data and information from the front line. The workplace became a learning environment.
To be a successful intellectual-age manager requires you to be in the trenches with your team, clearing obstacles, educating in the moment, and inspiring each member to contribute at his/her best level. After all, the goal of management is to transform human capital into financial capital. And you can’t do that by hiding in an office, not knowing first hand what life on the lines is like.
This entry was posted on Thursday, August 9th, 2012 at 10:43 am and is filed under For Managers. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.