23. Get out of the office!

That feeling of less time to do more is real.

It seems calendars are getting fuller every day.  The red light on the telephone blinks daring one to enter the voicemail queue.  Hundreds of emails await a return to the computer. In fact, for some tech companies the information overload has affected productivity so negatively that they have formed a partnership to research solutions.

The responsibilities of this modern world are intense.

In this Wall Street Journal article, Novartis AG CEO Daniel Vasella comments:

“I’m locked in,” he says. He is booked nearly solid until September, with back-to-back meetings and trips that were scheduled months ago. “Due to the constraints, I have to put down in priority things I like to do and that would be very interesting. I can’t spend as much time as I’d like to at hospitals, talking with doctors and patients who use our products. This is where I hear and see so much and get so many ideas.”

Requirements of constant connectivity are impacting management…in a bad way (from the same article):

“They [CEOs] complain about a lack of spontaneity in their workdays and little time to mull over problems that crop up. They often have to make do with phone calls and emails when a face-to-face meeting might be more effective.”

Limited management visibility is noticed by employees and negatively impacts the culture of an organization.

At our own system, limited desk time for managers will be “strongly encouraged.” The kind of strong encouragement that borders on requirement.  Managing people means interacting with them. Management By Walking Around (MBWA) is the philosophy we will live by.

Annie Stevens, managing partner at ClearRock, highlights the issue in an article at Management-Issues:

“There has been a greater tendency to try to manage employees by e-mail, memos or in meetings, rather than managers and executives getting out of their offices, walking among the employees they manage and talking with them. Many companies are missing out on the benefits they can get from this.”

Here’s the kicker—actual human to human interaction is required:

Key to an effective MBWA approach is to prepare yourself for hearing feedback and insights that you may not agree with.

“If the purpose of conducting MBWA is only to reinforce your current beliefs, you should save everyone’s time and don’t do it. The goal should be to uncover honest and objective contributions from people you manage without them feeling they need to tell you only what you want to hear,” said Stevens.

Here’s the message: do it.

Principle #23: Human interaction is vitally important.  Talk to employees.  Talk to patients.  Talk to providers.  Ask them how things are going.  Ask them if their needs are being met.  Ask them for their ideas.  Ask them anything!  Build relationships.  Full calendars, voicemails, and inboxes are no excuse.  Clear some time.  Get out of the office.  Get to know employees.  Besides, sitting in an office all day is awful.

2 thoughts on “23. Get out of the office!

  1. Talking with employees is important, but getting rid of the top-down command and control approach to managing people is far more important.

    Top-down demeans and disrespects people thereby demotivating them and “leading” them to treat their work and their customers with disrespect. Instead of issuing forth goals, targets, visions, orders, and a myriad of other directives meant to control employee performance, stop that and start listening to what they say they need in order to do a better job. Then give it to them.

    Best regards, Ben
    Author “Leading People to be Highly Motivated and Committed”


  2. It’s all about choices…I think it’s easier for managers to manage through technology than to interact face-to-face with employees. If a manager wants to be successful in their role and make their role ultimately easier, getting out of the office and speaking with employees will benefit everyone…manager, employee and company.

    P.S. Ben I agree with you wholeheartedlly…start listening to what the employees say they need in order to do a better job.


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