Thursday, 9 June 2016

Management by Walking Around

I have been working with a client for a couple of months now, helping them to drive a new sales transformation process within their business. As the well-worn Peter Drucker phrase goes: ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’, so no matter how great the strategy, how right the market conditions and how amazing the product, all will die on the altar of a divisive, negative, under-performing culture. Changing culture in business is under-estimated. It is hard because it means dealing with the most difficult raw material that any leader has to deal with – and that’s emotion. Dealing with emotion is hard because quite simply there’s no black and white. Each situation, each individual, each change is different – and therefore so is the emotion behind it.

In a large, fast-paced sales environment where high value deals are done in two telephone calls within the space of a week, some of the standard rhythms around longer 1:1 meetings, away from the floor where the leader can coach and give feedback to their team, will not be as effective in driving cultural change – if done on their own. Everyone wants a bit of heat and a bit of light from their manager, so there has to be other means by which leaders can interact in a low effort, high impact way that can – and does – work to drive a high performance culture and I call it ‘management by walking around’. To be clear, I do not mean aimless meandering. I do mean deliberate, intentional and consistent activity to reach the sales team with the right message to demonstrate support, constructive challenge, help, appreciation and stretch. Leaders with ‘Executive Presence’ make it look easy – the rest of us need to learn the strategies.

So, specifically:

  • Plan to make the activity part of your operational rhythm and stick to it.
  • Don’t bring an entourage. I used to work in the pharmaceutical industry where hospital consultants conduct weekly ward rounds with a cast of thousands. My consultants were always late for our appointments (as well as their afternoon clinics, I might add). We’re not trying to emulate that. It can become a huge time drain – as well as a distraction.
  • Decide if it’s a one way or a two way activity (i.e. do I just want to share something or do I want to discuss?). If it’s one way – plan the key message and be consistent; if it’s two-way, then be prepared to listen!
  • Follow up – especially where you’ve committed to during the interaction. Otherwise your integrity (and your impact) will quickly fall away.
  • Remember it’s not the platform for criticism – so don’t.
  • Make sure (over time) that you connect with everyone – avoid favouritism; that never plays well.
Remember, leaders with Executive Presence inspire those around them with that ‘I’ll follow you anywhere’ kind of aura. Making our interactions high impact – whether they are long or short – represents an opportunity for all of us to achieve this kind of response from our people. Management by walking around is an underrated tactic and as with all the topics about which I write I could say even more. However, now I must stop, not least because it’s time for me to go walkabout.

Until next time…

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