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Operating in the present: strategy #9

There is an idea presented about the laissez-faire approach as an effective leadership style.   Laissez-faire literally means nothing or a hands-off tactic.  I am personally not a fan, and the research shows that it is not effective.  As early as 1960s research from University of Michigan and Ohio State University had demonstrated that a laissez-faire style, referred to as impoverished, is ineffective, as demonstrated by the Blake-Mouton grid.  Both sets of research found that leaders with an impoverished style had little concern for people and results! 

What works:  being out and about, an approach that gets managers and leaders in the operational space, connecting with team members in their space.   Tom Peters is credited with naming this style Management by Walking Around (MBWA).  It can be traced back to HP as a management practice in the 1970s, and even further back to Abraham Lincoln as a strategy of connecting with the troops during the Civil War.  During the early 2000’s it was introduced into hospitals in the form of employee rounding. 

Unlike the laissez-faire approach, rounding or MBWA is a highly effective strategy for,

  • Better understanding the needs of your employees:  because you as a leader have entered into their physical workspace, you’re able to observe their workspace.  Do they have the right tools and equipment to perform their work to the top of their capacity?  Do they have enough physical space to move freely?   There is also an enhanced sense of comfort for your team members, as they do not have to leave their space to go elsewhere.  Needing to leave and attend a meeting in the manager’s office has also been associated with higher incidents of stress and anxiety. 

  • Making personal connections:  As you are out and about, you’re also making connections with others within the organization.  As the personal connections improve impromptu conversations usually follow.  This allows you as a leader to gather even more information that is helpful to understanding operational barriers and increases the perception that leadership is actively interested in all of the team members.

  • Enhances authenticity (strategy #3):  Since the goal of MBWA or rounding is to enhance connections and foster relationships, be sure to make it part of your daily or weekly interactions.  Team members do pick up on a sense of rushing, which will limit authenticity and quality interactions.  It’s also a great way to share the success of operational and/or strategic goals, share stories, and provide recognition of others.  When time allowed, rounding was one of my favorite daily, morning activities.  As I walked past the rows of my own team members, I would make a personal greeting and ask about their day as I slowly walked to my own office.  It was a great way to connect personally with anyone present. 

Each of these contributes to engagement overall.  Get out and about!  Its quite a bit more fun to be connecting with your team, learning about them, and enhancing organizational connections, than being stuck in an office ruminating over a budget. 

Check out our rounding tool, strategy #9, in Engaging Your Employees. 

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