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Want to Be a Great Manager? Get Up and Walk Around.

Karen Seketa // May 17, 2017

manager walking around table with several employees

Management by Walking Around (MBWA) is a term from the 80's. I'm going to explain the term's origin and why it's never been more relevant than now.

Tom Peters originated "MBWA" in 1978 when he was at Hewlett-Packard and discovered it was a key leadership tactic. I was in a leadership position in the early 90's, and it makes me smile to think the concept was still "cutting edge" back then and taught in most leadership training sessions.

Imagine: your manager actually spending time in their busy day just to walk around. Here's why it's time well spent.

Don't knock the walk

Unless you have actually engaged in this leadership practice, you have no idea how effective this is. You may think walking around is just wasted time. Why, you could be sitting in your office doing so many important manager things after all.

But in reality, you will glean more information about the health and productivity of your team by walking around the office for 30 to 60 minutes than you would by sitting at your desk for 100 hours. Yep, now THAT is some ROI for you.

I know this is true because I lived it. Look at my LinkedIn Profile and contact any of my references and they will tell you this is true. I intentionally spent about an hour each day (on a random schedule - this is important) just wandering around the office, hanging out, and casually checking in with my E3ers.

My reward? Volumes of unfiltered inputs into the culture, the mood, the wins, and the frustrations of what my employees were dealing with.

Walking the walk at E3

At Element Three, we’ve continued to broaden our operations over the past several years, increasing our headcount and expanding our departments and capabilities. As you can imagine, the larger the agency has grown, the more effort our executive team has had to put in to keep our finger on the pulse of our organization.

Which is why it’s so refreshing that it’s not only me who plans time to walk around the office - our entire leadership team, including our President, Tiffany, makes time for this in their schedules. Creating a culture of transparency and accessibility requires more than just an open-door policy - leadership (at all levels) must make the effort to reach out to their employees in order for this openness to truly take root.

Keep it casual

Casual conversation in a safe space where you can just chat, talk about your family, talk about something you might be stuck on, or even share a beer ... this is the way you stay connected to those who are most important.

Sure, you could argue that your customers are the most important people in your business but let's be real. Without awesome folks to produce the results, you would have no customers. Your employees are the heartbeat of your business. Pay attention to the signals they are sending. Pick up what they are laying down.

This picture of Tiffany captures exactly what I’m talking about. I would argue THIS is the most important thing she does every day.

Great Managers Walk Around

Again, this burden does not fall on HR or the CEO’s shoulders alone. Anyone in a leadership role in your company - especially those closely connected to supporting your company culture should be walking around a few times every day.

So, to all my fellow managers, go walk around - and let me know whether you think it was worth it.