In my employee days, I remember the “Big Boss” stopping in to see the facility and possibly talk to employees… you would have thought the President of the United States, The Queen of England, or any other “BIG Name” you can think of was coming over for Sunday Dinner! I watched my bosses and coworkers prepare a week in advance; cleaning and organizing as if it were Thanksgiving Dinner. On the day of arrival, I watched grown adults scurry about as the entourage of the “Big Boss” approached closer to the building… and then the sad inevitability came… either The “Big Boss or Bosses” entered the building, made a lap, did the Queen’s Wave and left as quickly as they entered and spoke to zero Front-Line Employees or “The Big Boss or Bosses” and their entourage huddled in one spot; while my bosses jockeyed for position to elbow into the conversation with mindless chit-chat attempting to impress them with metrics… and at times, I very sadly watched my awesome female bosses struggle to penetrate the “Boy’s Club”.
I could never understand either side; “The Big Boss” arriving this way and thinking he/she would ever get a real sense of the facility and the way things “really” work. It’s impossible to address or fix what you don’t know is broken. Whether the visit is simply checking off a box or seeing a cleaned up, but not realistic version of things is pointless and a waste of time! As the employee or the one being visited; I always knew the “Big Boss” was a person just like me and scurrying and trembling wasn’t in my nature. I also knew a “Real Leader” visiting a place would want to see how things really are and have real conversation with employees that were respectful of their position, but not fearful. Real Leaders want and can consume Real Information! So, how to visit like a leader; enhancing not only your Leadership & Work/Life Harmony, but also that of those you’re leading?
The Expected Drop-In!
As the Big Boss”, please be aware of how your Direct Reports and Front-Line see you… they tend to see your “Title”. When you walk by or walk in people tend to straighten up and only want to tell you the “Good Stuff” to either impress you or elevate themselves, their staff, or simply keep their job. Since you know this, do your best to put them at ease … as you’ve connected with them consistently regarding work and life through phone calls, emails, and your 1-on-1 Meetings that I discuss in other articles, videos, and trainings. It’s also important to be willing to speak with employees on all levels, of all types, and ask questions about them their family, their work, their successes, and possible issues… keep in mind, truth that will allow evolution tends to come from the most unlikely of sources… Be Mindful!
As the Direct Report or more Middle Management, it makes sense to tidy your house. I run the vacuum, make sure dirty dishes are out of the sink, and light candles when company comes over at my house also. However, don’t be so clean that you hide real issues and silence your staff. The truth is, whatever you were doing to prepare for the “Big Boss’s” arrival needs to be done consistently as the expectation in your facility anyway and when it’s not; that’s on you and your leadership!
Lastly, as the Front-Line Employee… personal leadership matters! Good eye-contact, a smile, a greeting, and sharing the truth matters and is truly impressive to leaders. Who knows what the future holds for you and when it’s your time for a recommendation or promotion, connections matter! Here’s a tip when sharing your truth… Positives first and a possible solution to improve second. “The Positive” says a lot about you, your personal leadership, and how you feel about the job; while “The Suggested Solution” or simply identifying the issue says a lot about your potential leadership ability… Impressive!
The Unexpected Drop-In!
This is the real demonstration of your leadership and hopefully a treat for your people! Show Up where and when you’re not supposed to be. You will see the real company you run, team you lead, employees you employ, and how things are really done! Many leaders have that set day everyone knows they’re arriving… or… you may walk the same path into work. I encourage you to veer off path.
Walk a different hallway, visit more floors, really get lost in your building to observe. When people know who you are, great! Have a conversation… we’ll get into that in Key 3. When people don’t know who you are, great! It’s like you’re “Undercover Boss”. I love that show as it not only shines a light on how things really are, but also on the incredible people you have working for you, with you, and that the customer ultimately relies on. You get to see the true Faces of Your Company at Work! You get to hear their real stories both personally and professionally.
Great leaders always say they don’t want to lose touch, as most likely they started as a Front-Line Employee. However, over time and due to “Busy” it becomes harder and harder to make those rounds and suddenly the fancy corner office might as well be a thousand miles from the Front-Line and the real issues… Be Mindful!
Now, Get out of the Way!
There are Pros and Concerns to everything! In this case, The Expected and Unexpected Drop-In will help to enhance your leadership; it also has the potential to take away from the leadership of your Direct Reports. For example, when I was in a position of leadership in a Mental Health Facility. It made leadership-sense for me to do my Drop-Ins to the various classrooms and Behavior Center; however when I solve every resident’s issue along the way I train every resident to come to me instead of their staff, I unknowingly promote potential splitting (where the person in need selectively plays authority figures against one another for their own gain), I may unintentionally undermine staff; therefore limiting and discouraging their leadership abilities. Compound this day after day, month after month, year after year… you can see how this can become a huge problem!
Therefore, as you’re making your Drop-Ins; listen, engage, note things to yourself, lead through crises when necessary, coach and mentor, then GET THE HECK OUT OF THE WAY so your leaders can lead, your Front-Line can get back to work, and you’re not the reason for chaos on the floor and a lack of production… Be Mindful!
This Key is simple yet powerful! Here are a few questions to ask in your chat with Direct Reports and Front-Line Employees on your Drop-Ins:
- What do you like most about the company or your job and what’s one thing you’d fine-tune? When you hear many people saying the same thing about what to fine-tune… that’s a win!
- What’s your dream? If it relates to the job, great! If not, great!
- What are your plans for the weekend? This question allows people to tell you if they’re in a relationship, have children, etc. without you feeling creepy asking so directly. Now you get to ask how long they’ve been married, how many kids they have, the sports they’re in, you may find there are some cool events in your area you never knew about, etc.!
Tip: As you’re chatting, do your best to remember names. I must admit, this is my weak spot as a Leader. Remembering makes them feel like a million bucks the next time you walk by and say their name! Maybe you write names down after your Unexpected Drop-Ins and review names before your next walk through the building. It’s not a sexy task, however, it will pay dividends in your culture! When you don’t remember a person’s name; remember what they shared before and ask them about it!
Remember, the leaders coming up behind you are watching and will most likely mimic much of your leadership style! If you stay in your Ivory Tower, lead through emails all day, stay late every day, miss your kid’s games due to work, work while on vacation, and look burnt-out daily… that’s what they will do, think that’s what must be done to make it, and expect from everyone else… Be Mindful!
Be The Customer!
You’ve just read ways to VISIT your people… how about you VISIT your business! As a leader, it’s not only important to see how your Direct Reports actually do their job, how your Front-Line does their job, but also how the world receives what you offer. Let’s face it, business comes down to results. I implore you to become the random customer of your product!
As a professional speaker, this was initially hard for me to do. However, as the business evolved and creating a website, App, and products… it became easier. I keep copies of my book by my desk and in my closet. Every now and then, I pick them up a read a chapter. I know I’m biased, however it’s important my writing stands the test of time. Was what I wrote years ago still relevant, did I get something from it… even though I wrote it, did it inspire me quickly… even though I only read a paragraph?
One time, I went to my site and pretended to be a customer to purchase my Pre-Recorded Program and there was a glitch. I immediately contacted my Web Team and asked them to look into it. It was fixed within the hour. What if I didn’t do that? When people can receive your product before or without ever meeting you… your reputation is always at risk!
Many of the people that benefit from your services will never physically meet you… they will meet your customer service department and the other “Real Faces of Your Organizing”. Let’s minimize potential issues, enhance your Leadership, and their Work/Life Harmony by YOU being the customer of your organization once in a while! Enjoy your journey, your evolution, and your Leader’s Visit!!!
“Real Leaders want and can consume Real Information regardless of who it comes from… Be Mindful!” – Andre Young
Written by: Andre Young
Take the pain out of your company and click www.youevolvingnow.com to connect, chat, and to find out more about Andre Young’s Leadership & Work/Life Harmony Trainings, Speaking Engagements, Books, and more; evolving your organization, your leaders, employees, and teams!