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October 18, 2016

Management By Walking Around (MBWA): What Effective Leaders Do

Doctors do it. Effective plant managers do it. Those who manage others well do it, too.

Call it what you want. Rounds. MBWA. Travel paths.

The opportunity is for the leader to connect with staff, and when used effectively, to gain hugely valuable information. When done well, the habit also can better connect employees to your team and organization.

How do you make the most of MBWA and maximize your time spent? First, be purposeful when you walk around. 

What are your goals in talking with employees? What might you learn that will help you run the business better and/or further drive engagement?

With your goals in mind, you then can determine the best questions to ask.

Here are a few winners:

  • “What’s one thing we should do to improve (our plant, our team, etc.)?”
  • “One of our goals is ___________. What’s one thing you recommend we do to be more effective at achieving that goal?”
  • “Tell me something stupid that we do that we should stop because it doesn’t contribute to engaging employees and/or taking care of customers better?”
  • “Recognition is important to me, and to our team. Help me with someone we should recognize, and tell me specifically why we should recognize them.”

Listen, Summarize, and Follow-Up

When you ask a great open-ended question, your next job is to listen, summarize, and ask a follow-up question, if appropriate. Then, thank the employee for their thoughts and perspectives. For their candor.  For having the courage to share something that might have been tough for them to say.

What’s most critical then, is to take action when it makes sense, or re-set expectations as to why an idea might not make sense right now. You might highlight a few ideas and recognize the employees who shared those ideas in the next all staff meeting, or in an upcoming huddle.

Even if you’re in fire-fighting mode, you can use any interaction to learn something hugely helpful when you are intentional in how you lead and communicate. Problem solved? Great. “While I have you, might I ask you this question?”

The questions you ask send a signal about what’s important, and can give you valuable information that you can’t get anywhere else. Plus, employees feel valued and cared about.

What one question are you asking everyone this week as you make your rounds?

David Grossman

For more open-ended question ideas, and more information on this topic, view a previous article I wrote about it here.

Tag(s): Leadership

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