Seeing Stars

“What we see depends mainly on what we look for.”
John Lubbock


“Seeing is a gift that comes with practice.”
Stephanie Mills 


When a massive power outage struck southern California in the 1990s, Los Angeles residents reportedly called 911 to express alarm about strange clouds hovering overhead.  They were seeing the Milky Way for the first time.  Because of the lack of the usual light pollution they had become accustomed to, they had the chance to see something they had never noticed before.  Much like the folks in LA, any of us that have had the opportunity to get away from the city and take the time to look at the sky at night have probably gained a new appreciation for the stars and their beauty. 

In the work place, we can also have an obstructed view as we go about our daily work.  Our day-to-day duties distract and blind us from all there is to see.  We begin to see coworkers as part of the surroundings and we run the risk of missing their contributions to the organization.  On the other hand, we may also miss those who may not be contributing.

Get Out and About 

Over time, our work routines become ingrained.  The people we work with become part of our routines.  Interactions and collaborations with them become just another part of each workday.  We begin to take the relationships and the outcomes for granted.  For some managers, being behind a desk all day keeps them from really seeing what goes on outside the confines of their office.  Contributions go unrecognized and they overlook those who don’t pull their weight because the outcome is all that’s evident.

The best way to see what’s going on (or not going on…) is to go where the work happens (or doesn’t happen…).  I believe the technical term for this is MBWA (Manage By Walking Around).  This technique provides numerous advantages such as: 

·       You get to see your employees and get to know them

·       You can talk with folks and learn what they do, what’s working and what’s not

·       You can discover people doing something right (imagine being able to say “Thank you”
immediately thereafter

·       Co-workers will see you as “accessible”

·       You discover what needs to change

·       You discover behavior (and people) that need to be realigned with the company’s values
values you say…we need values? – A talk for another time.)

·       People will notice your periodic forays into their work area(s).  They will be thankful for your
interest and aware that you are observing

Encourage other managers to do the same and to communicate opportunities for recognition up the ladder.  For bigger accomplishments, a personal Thank You note from the “Big Guy” is always very encouraging.  This is one-way employee engagement is increased.

Seeing the Stars

Another benefit of MBWA is it gets you out of your office.  It allows you to move away from the daily work and details that keep you heads down at your desk all day.  It gives you a bigger picture of how things are actually functioning in the areas under your leadership where the work happens.  This needs to be undertaken intentionally and viewed as an important way of connecting with employees and their work towards the company’s goals.  It cannot be viewed as another distraction or as taking time from your duties.  You are a manager, a leader; you’re supposed to be aware.  It is one of your duties.  You’ll begin to understand how effective your leadership is through your observations and the feedback you solicit.  Encourage people to be honest as you interact with them.  Be honest with them as they ask you questions.

Ultimately, you’ll get to move away from the things that block your view of what there is to see throughout your organization, good and bad.  Think Undercover Boss” without the disguise and cameras.  They say people get familiar with being on camera and begin to act and converse normally and honestly.  While you will not have the benefit of anonymity, if you MBWA often enough you will gain the familiarity and, hopefully, the openness that comes with it.  You’ll learn more about how things really work and don’t work in your organization. 

Finally, as on “Undercover Boss”, you’ll begin to notice those that work hard; who make an impact and whom you’d wish you could have 100 more.  You’ll gain a greater appreciation of their contribution to the organization and be able to reward them.  You’ll get a chance to get away from those things that obstruct your view and see your “stars”.

Here to serve,

John Duba

Next month:  Wag More – Bark Less

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