For years and years, we've been told there's no substitute for "managing by walking around" if we want to really know what's motivating—or holding back—our people and our teams. It sounds like a simple skill that everyone already knows. But writing recently in HR Magazine, consultant Linda Dulye notes, "Walking around may sound like it needs no definition, but, in reality, it's tough stuff." Here's some advice:Plan ahead. Walking around should be informal but not aimless. Think about what you want to learn from and share with each member of your team—new hires, old friends, star performers, underperformers. And think about the best time for both you and your team to have these conversations. Ideally, it would be when all of you are focused on work (not 10 minutes before quitting time) but not extremely busy. Getting the schedule right might take some planning.
Bring only the right tools. When you're walking around, you're "meeting with your staff"—give them the attention they deserve. You can answer your phone or e-mail later, so leave the gadgets behind. Be prepared to take notes to remind you later of follow-up items, but don't walk around with a clipboard writing down everything you see. You could, however, bring a digital camera—particularly if you're meeting with staffers you don't know that well. Taking snapshots can be a good icebreaker.Ask what to ask. You will, and should, have specific questions in mind, but you should always first ask your people what they want to know from you. This helps make sure you're having a conversation, not an interrogation.