When I started this work in the 80’s, Tom Peter’s management-by-wandering-around was a hot topic. Every senior leader was getting out of his or her office to spend some time “wandering.” They all wanted to “search for excellence.”
Staff, of course, were freaking out because from their perspective this was “weird” behavior. They were convinced that managers were trying to catch people doing something wrong so they could fire people on the spot. There was no trust anywhere. It was not a good experience for all involved.
Yet, over time, and with some assistance, trust was developed in certain companies. Managers learned to focus less on command and control, and more on listening. Teams learned to function in a healthy manner. Purpose and core values were discussed and defined. Slowly, clarity grew and became the new normal.
Still, during busy, complex and challenging times, I remember the wisdom shared by D. Michael Abrashoff, retired U.S. Navy: “The most important thing a captain can do is to see the ship from the eyes of the crew.”
Originally, the goal of MBWA was for managers to get out of the office and to see what was happening. In short, they were suppose to see the real people rather than countless papers and forms that measured productivity. The difficulty was that the relationships were so unhealthy that there was no depth of dialogue. As I learned years ago, fear can move people, but not in the same direction as trust.
Now, certain leaders and managers are realizing that they need to get out of their office again and “see the ship from the eyes of the crew.” Many are not certain they know how to do this. In reality, it sounds easy but it actually is hard work. The best leaders have learned that they need to suspend their line of judgement and thinking, and instead be open to receiving rather than giving.
When they do this well, they role model that listening is a powerful action. And they role model the core values. These small actions are very powerful when done in an authentic manner.
This week, remember that leadership happens between the words.