By Rebecca Wiessmann
We’ve published a few articles in the last year or so, and I’ve seen some comments like, “Well, that’s just management by walking around.” Somehow dismissing this concept as useless.
I also have dealt with a number of managers in a wide array of roles that have told me that management by walking around (MBWA) was largely fruitless. If it’s done wrong, they are right. True MBWA goes so much deeper.
In the Trenches
I had the fortunate opportunity to come up in the ranks of a company. I understood the struggles of the frontline staff. Then I was taken under the wing of some managers and worked my way up. I went through an awkward period where I was caught in the middle. The frontline staff saw me as their equal; the upper/middle management also saw the same.
I’ve been through leadership training, quite a bit actually, and learned some things. But there’s one thing that I feel like leadership/management training has tried to teach me that I simply don’t get. … “You don’t need to know your subordinate’s job,” “their opinion,” “their position,” in order to be “a good manager/leader.”
Nope, no thanks, never going to drink that Kool-Aid.
We talk a lot in senior living and at Foresight about servant leadership, which is a great goal. But we have to live it as well as talk about it.
Here is the big question: Do we live it?
In the first management role I had, I knew everything (well almost) about what my employees did. When they were out sick or on vacation, I filled in for them. I made connections with the employees in the other departments they worked with. When we were fully staffed, I regularly walked to other departments and just dropped in. Saying hi, catching up on the ins and outs both about work and otherwise. Not just with my employees, but with everyone in the business location.
It wasn’t about eavesdropping; it wasn’t about making sure that my employees were doing what they were supposed to be doing. It was about creating connections; it was about creating culture.
“The Best Boss I Ever Had”
An odd thing is, when I took this management position, I ended up managing someone the exact same age as my father. It was a huge adjustment. We pushed at each other. He even spent a week not talking to me because we had a disagreement about something, and ultimately I did have to pull rank. But I also let him take that time because I knew he needed it. He eventually came to me when he was ready, and we talked it out.
He’s now retired and regularly calls me just to catch up. He has told me many times that I was the best boss he ever had. It’s a great honor. And that, I believe, is because I made sure that I knew him, I knew the other people he worked with. I took the time to walk around.