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Manage by Walking Around

Posted on Wednesday, May 20, 2009 at 2:28 PM

Checking in with your editorial staff regularly can help optimize workflow.

By Pat Brill

If you want a pulse on what is happening with your editorial staff, walk around, talk to them, and connect with each one. You don't need to speak to every person when you take a break and stroll around, but it's good to check in regularly with each person. To manage employees effectively, it's important to build relationships with them.

How Comfortable Are You?

When you first start walking around, you may feel uncomfortable with the process. That is the nature of doing something new -- not being sure how to do it. Your employees will probably react, wondering if you are looking for something wrong. Tell them that you need to get out of your own office more often in order to understand how the business is working and what you can do to help each member of your team. Depending on your environment, they may or may not trust your intention right away. That's okay -- as you practice this new behavior, they will grow to depend on your presence.

If you are the type to micromanage, this may be a challenge for you. You may be tempted to make corrections and be critical of an employee's performance. It's your job to set direction and provide a strong working environment for your employees. It's their job to handle the details and execute. You can take note and make corrections at another time...not at the walk-around time.

Walking around is finding the pulse of your team, what works and doesn't work, so that you can be present for your employees and your publication. Stay positive and don't expect results right away. Change takes time, but is definitely worth the 15-30 minutes of your time to walk around and talk with employees regularly.

Next Step

Decide to spend a specific amount of time on the floor walking around, talking, asking questions, listening, listening, and listening. Start with 15 minutes and work your way up to 30 minutes at a time. You want your employees to know that this is important to you, and not just something nice to do.

Envision what you want to accomplish during your walk-around. Is it to watch your staff interact with their work and with each other? Do you want to see where there are problems in the processing of the work? What do you want to learn about your employees and the work environment?

In order to increase the effectiveness of your business, you need to understand where your employees are at. Set an intention to walk around regularly. Start small by picking one day each week and you will learn a lot about what is happening in your workplace.

What About a Virtual Employee?

If you are working in a virtual environment, how do you walk around there? Have a virtual walk-around: call people and set a timer for a five-minute "just checking in" chat. Let them know you are interested and that they are not in their own little silo, but rather an important part of the team. Make it important to meet face-to-face each quarter with virtual employees.

Pat Brill (SPHR) has over 10 years' experience in human resources and is the author of the blog "Managing Employees" at www.managingemployees.net.

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