Let's Take A Walk

"Whatever you are, be a good one." ~ Abraham Lincoln

Some of you may have seen the movie "Up in the Air" , starring George Clooney, which tells the story of how companies and managements deal with layoffs, downsizing and cuts. It is a poignant portrayal of an issue that all executives, supervisors and managers have to deal with at some time in their career. I regularly attend local "Vistage" group meetings with other entrepreneurs, Chief Executives and Presidents of companies where this issue is addressed and many members have good naturedly kidded me about the tradition I have of taking a walk around the building with employees that appear to be having difficulties adapting to either culture, expectations or performance within the companies that I have been privileged and tasked to manage. A walk away from the office to understand the employees perspective is something very few executives choose to do - preferring to stay in the controlled environment of their office with all the status trappings and implicit authority furnishings to bolster their case. The conversation becomes a blunt "Here is what you need to do". Which is fine - because eventually that message needs to be underscored. But my take is that first we need to find out the willingness - the desire - the mindset and the perspective of the employee. We shouldn't always do this second hand through others. Although we certainly need to accept supervisors judgment and advice. A first hand chat with an employee, away from the office, is a rarely used and yet essential tool that can assist you in building highly effective organizations and teams. What are you trying to find out ? Does this person want to do better? Are they willing to accept responsibility to do the things it takes to do better? Or are they pointing fingers at external things and others?. A walk around the building is a way to find out how willing a person is to accept accountability away from the trappings. Walking stimulates an exchange that is free flowing. An exchange where body language doesn't tighten up. An exchange where gestures and volume can be more free and open. A conversation about attitude, performance or perspective disagreements should be open, free and informal in order to get stuff out in the open. Many leading executives and managers fall in love with the formalities and furnishings of position. Many forget that business is about people. There is plenty of time to move conversations into a formal "Here are the expectations" mode. Try taking a walk around the building first. You will learn the real skinny of what people think. You will learn what they are willing, and sometimes not willing, to do first hand. Got a second? - Let's Take A Walk.

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