Five Ways Managers Screw Up MBWA

No matter what level leader you are, if you want to really make an impact on your team, get out of your office. Walk around. Connect with the human beings you’re supporting, and their customers. Listen to them. Act on what you hear. Explain the “why” behind “what” you’re asking them to do. Ask deeper questions and listen even harder. Thank them for their input. Recognize their efforts.

Do even half of this every single week and your influence and results are bound to improve.

And yet, if you get out of your office, and stir things up, without a sincere “How can I best help?” and “What must I learn?” approach, you’re likely to make things worse for your employees, your business, and your customers.

If you overreact, under-support, or act like you’re above the day-to-day BS that’s driving them crazy, you’ll jeopardize your credibility and influence, not to mention the results you’re looking to achieve.

Five Ways Managers Screw Up MBWA (Management By Walking Around)

Be careful that MBWA doesn’t become OCHTC (Oh Crap, Here They Come)

1. Over-reacting to a Single Incident

One employee in one office is screwing up your new program, or can’t explain your new product, and you conclude that “no one gets it,” and frantically start gathering all your National leaders together to fix this “Big Problem,” which might actually be just one dude with his head in the sand.  And you know what everyone else is thinking, including your National leaders who are scrambling to fix the “Big Problem?”

“Seriously, if s/he wants to work on something BIG, let’s me show him the real fish we have to fry.” But of course, they don’t say that.

That would be defensive, and they’re not stupid. So they diaper drama  the conversation and do exactly what they’re told. And save the real conversation for another time.

If you’re lucky.

2. The “Gotcha” Game

With the wrong tone and an imbalanced lens, all those “helpful pointers” feel more like “gotcha.” It’s great to point out what can be done better, along with stories and sharing of best practices, but be sure you’re also looking for the good news. I’ve seen many execs come through sweating all the small stuff that was “wrong” and completely overlooking the huge accomplishments of the team. Sure, they MAY remember to throw away the pizza box in the break room next time, but they’ll certainly remember that you didn’t even mention their significant sales wins. In some cultures the word on the street is that you “Can’t ever have a good executive visit, the best you can do is not have a bad visit.” Trust me, if that’s the case, you’ll get better long-term results by staying in your office.

3. The Drive-By

You come in long enough to make an appearance, but don’t spend time making any real connection. Such drive-bys feel like you’re checking off a to-do. Equally destructive is showing up, and heading to a nearby office to close the door and take calls. Wandering around takes time.

4. The High-Maintenance Prep

In anticipation, the team runs around making everything just right. Even if you think you’re low maintenance, watch what your local team is doing to prepare. It sends a terrible message to the frontline when local management starts scurrying to “clean up the place” or order special food in advance of your visit. A clean work environment is important for the employees every day, not for the execs. I once had a Director apologize to me that he had not “had the rugs replaced in advance of my visit.” They were filthy and needed replacing, but not for me.

5. The Talking Tour

MBWA is about listening and learning. Sure it’s great to reinforce priorities, but be sure you’re really taking the time to listen to ideas and concerns and to ask what you can do to be most helpful. Listen well, take great notes, follow-up with the person who shared their idea.

A MBWA  (Management By Walking Around) Secret Weapon

When I was a call center Director, I worked for a Senior VP who was strong, tough and introverted. Wandering around did not come naturally for her. But, she was a good leader who deeply understood the value and made it a point to spend quality time in the centers. So the morning before her visit, we went to each rep’s desk and color coded their cubes with helium balloons all representing something they had accomplished:  yellow was perfect attendance, red meant they had attained a degree or certification that year, white symbolized they were exceeding goals, etc. We even threw in a few personal ones, like having a baby. That way as she wandered around she had instant conversation starters. Her congratulatory remarks flowed easily into how they were accomplishing their work and where they needed the most help. Plus, the visit felt like an uplifting celebration of the team, not of making things just right for her.

MBWA is powerful and important. Done well, it makes all the difference in the world. Take the time to do it right.

Managing Your Boss: Get the Support You Need in 10 Minutes a Week (Includes Free Tool)

When’s the last time you had a really great one-on-one with your boss? If your answer is anything but “in the last 2 weeks,” you’re not alone. A great cadence of good one-on-one meetings is unusual. Why? Well first,  everybody’s busy. It’s easier to cancel a meeting with a direct report than with your boss. Or perhaps, your one-on-ones drag on, lack preparation, or generally feel like a waste of time.

Whether you’re the manager, the one being managed, or both, one the easiest ways to take your performance to the next level is through great one-on-one meetings.

How to Hold a 10 Minute (MIT- Most Important Thing) Huddle

Of course, you need more than 10 minutes a week to build a great relationship with your manager. You need time to get to know one another as human beings and to focus on long-term goals and career development. What I’m about to share here is not a substitute for those vital sessions. This tool is for the in-between times: to help you stay focused each week to clarify expectations, to ensure the MIT stays the MIT, and to get the support you need.

It works like this. You schedule 10 minutes a week with your boss and come prepared to discuss the following:

  • What’s the Most Important Thing you accomplished last week? (This gives you an opportunity to ensure you boss is aware of the good work you are doing)
  • What’s the Most Important Thing you’re working on this week? (This helps clarify expectations and ensure alignment)
  • What support do you need? This gives you a structured time to ask for help AND also makes it easier on your boss if you keep a running list of anything that’s not urgent and can wait.

Our Winning Well clients who are using this approach tell us it’s done wonders to streamline their communications, clarify expectations, and eliminate wasteful work.

You can download the free MIT Huddle Planner here

The 7 Deadly Sins of Skip Level Meetings

Skip level meetings always seem like a good idea at the time.  A little MBWA (management by walking around) never hurt anyone. Or did it?

Done well, skip level meetings are a remarkable tool in your Winning Well toolkit. Skip level meetings help you connect “what to why,” reinforce the MIT (most important thing), help you build genuine relationships, give you a chance to ask strategic questions to learn what’s really going on, and most importantly, to build genuine relationships.

Maybe that’s why after over 700 blog posts, the most read is 5 Secrets To Great Skip Level Meetings. In fact, there are some days that this post from 2014 has more hits than whatever new is going on. And how we manage the skip level communication, is always top of mind with my consulting clients. 

Why the intrigue?

Because done poorly MBWA becomes OCHTC (Oh Crap, Here They Come). If your skip level meetings are backfiring, or if you have a boss who could get better at this and you want to help them out, be sure to avoid these 7 traps.

7 Deadly Sins of Skip Level Meetings

  1. Not Doing Your Homework
    Sure you’re their bosses boss. They should be glad you’re there, right? Hmmm…Want to ensure you make an impact? Learn what’s up with the people in the room. Get their names. Know what’s driving them crazy. Be able to speak articulately about a few of their biggest accomplishments.
  2. Showing Up Needy
    Yes, I get it. You’re sandwiching this skip level in-between really important calls with C-level execs, vital customers, your boss… Go minimalist here. What do you need? A closed-door in-between your skip-level meetings? Ask for that. Otherwise show up as low-maintenance as you can (and ensure your assistant gets this too.)
  3. Sticking To Your Agenda
    The real magic of skip-level meetings is never planned. Even if your team gave you a carefully crafted list of conversation starters, stay real and open to where the conversation may lead. 
  4. Talking Too Much
    Resist the urge. You will learn way more by listening. 
  5. Asking the Wrong Questions
    So often I see leaders ask leading questions that ensure they get told what they want to hear. You already know what you think. Have the courage to ask the questions that might surface answers that frustrate you. It’s better to know what people are really thinking. 
  6. Failing to Recognize Contributions
    Your people want to know that you know what they’re up to. Be sure you do and tell them.
  7. Neglecting to Follow Through
    If you promise to look into something, be sure you do. If you promise to get something fixed right away, do it. And just as importantly, be sure you close the loop and let them know. Making commitments without follow-through does more harm than not showing up at all.

Great leaders spend lots of time talking to the people closest to the customer. It’s worth the extra effort to dig deep and do it right.

What Your Team Is Saying Behind Your Back

Have you ever talked about your boss behind your back? If you haven’t complained to at least someone…you’re a saint. Call me. I’m sure you’ve got some wisdom we can share here at LGL.

For the rest of us… you know… right? Just like you’re complaining about that boss who (you might even like a lot of the time) has behaviors you wish they would improve–SOON.  And chances are you haven’t told them.

Here’s the real deal. No matter how wonderful you are, I guarantee you, your team is talking about you (in some way that would surprise you) too.

How do I know this? Well, in addition to all the barrage of stories I hear from the companies I work with, the classroom full of MBA students who attended my Managing Difficult People elective all have one thing in common. Despite the advertised name of the class, guess who 100% are there to talk about? Yup. You guessed it. The inapproachable “jerk” who is their boss. As we dig in, he’s never that bad. #justsaying #letmehelp

That’s the spirit behind Winning Well. No one leads in a soul sucking way on purpose.  David Dye and I are on a mission to help you (and your bosses and your direct reports) lead better.

Sure it’s hard. You and your bosses are sandwiched between all kinds of competing priorities. And it’s tricky to think about how to do it right.

But it can also be made much easier by learning some extremely practical tools and techniques (this is a 2 minute video).

I promise you. A little bit of quality leadership development is worth the investment.

If you haven’t downloaded a FREE chapter of Winning Well, accessed the free toolkit, or taken the free online assessment, click here to get started. 

If you just want to talk for an hour (my dime) about why you’re a Winning Well leader or areas you’re looking to improve please contact my awesome assistant, Beth at beth@letsgrowleaders.com and she will get something scheduled.

I know we can help. And we have a wide range of solutions for every budget, including our newly released Winning Well online course.

skip level meetings

The Best Secret To Managing Up

Have you ever been in a scene like this? Your team is working hard. Results are solid. But nobody seems to notice. Or worse, any skip level visits turn out so poorly, you begin to dread the very thought of a well-intentioned executive stopping by to talk with your team.

An important part of Winning Well is helping your team showcase their results.

Here’s my favorite approach.

This video is part of my Results That Last program. To take a peek inside the first few sessions (for free), click here.  I also have live versions of my Results that Last Program. Please contact me for more information about the best approach for your company.

4 Reasons Your Feedback is Being Ignored

The number one frustration I hear from team leaders is that their feedback falls on deaf ears. The employee seems to get it–for a minute, and then they go right back to their old habits.

So they give the same feedback again, this time “louder” either literally, or through progressive discipline, or sadly sometimes threats or biting sarcasm.

Sure, there are some folks out there “you just can’t fix,” but frequently that’s not the real issue.

4 Reasobuilderns Your Feedback is Being Ignored

When I turn the tables and ask the employees why the behavior continues, here’s what they tell me.

  1. The Feedback Flood Factor
    “I’m trying to do better, I really am. But it’s all just too much. Every time we meet, he’s giving me something else to work on. No matter what I do, I can’t seem to get it right, so I’ve learned to just block him out and do the best I can.” If you want real change, isolate one behavior at a time.
  2. The “Do as I Say, Not as I Do” Factor
    “My boss keeps telling me my customer courtesy credits are too high– that I’m costing the business too much money. So I really worked on that for a while. But then, I found my customers started to ask to speak to my supervisor. And guess, what? She always gave them the credit! She looks like the hero, and the credit she gives them goes against my numbers and I still end up on progressive action.” If you want your employees to hear your feedback, be sure you’re following your own standards. If there are reasons you make exceptions, be sure you clearly differentiate and explain the thought process, so they can follow consistent parameters.
  3. The “I Don’t Know How” Factor
    “My manager says I need to be more strategic. That sounds awesome. I’m all for that. But what does that mean? How do I do that?” Be sure your feedback is specific and actionable. Explain what success looks like in terms of specific behaviors.
  4. The “I Disagree” Factor
    “My supervisor keeps asking me to do this, but I just don’t think it’s right. It’s going to have a negative impact on MY customers. I’ve tried to explain my concerns, but she just keeps citing policy, and that this decision is ‘above my pay grade.’ ” Sure, we all have to implement policies we may not agree with, the important factor here is to really listen to the concerns and explain why. Just shutting down the conversation MAY lead to compliance, but not always. And it certainly won’t lead to commitment.

Most employees want to do a good job. If your feedback is being ignored, dig deeper to get to root cause.

5 Secrets To Great Skip Level Meetings

Done well, skip level meetings can inspire, engage, motivate and inform the skipper, skipee, and even the skipped. On the other hand, poorly run skip level meetings inadvertently bring on diaper genie feedback and diminish trust.

In my latest role, most of my skip level meetings were even more tricky because I was skipping across many layers or holding focus groups in other companies for which I was the client. There was the added fear that the reps would tell me something that their boss’s, boss’s, boss didn’t want me to know. And yet, I wanted to know it, so we could help. Tricky.

How to Hold Great Skip Level Meetings

  1. Prepare – It’s arrogant to go into a skip level meeting without doing your homework. Understand what the team is doing really well and know what concerns to anticipate. Know something about the people attending, have a few specifics to recognize. Bringing along a note taker enables you to fully engage in a dynamic conversation, but don’t overwhelm the room with extra spectators.
  2. Make it Personal – I always start skip level meetings the same way. I invite participants to share their name, and “what makes them a ROCK STAR in their current job.” People like to share what they’re good at, and it’s beautiful to see what matters most to them.
  3. Relate Through Stories – Skip level meetings are not only a great way to find out what’s on people’s minds, but they are also a great way to reinforce key messages through strategic storytelling. Share your stories, and invite them to share their stories then summarize the themes. For example, “tell me a story of when you turned around a really frustrated customer.” Or, “do you have a story of your team leader was most helpful to you?”
  4. Ask Positively Framed Open-Ended Questions – Framing your questions in a positive light makes it more comfortable for employees to share ideas for improvement.
       •  What’s the best part of working here?
       •  How do you know how you’re doing? In which areas would you like more feedback?
       •  If you were in my shoes and could change one thing to make your work easier, what would that be?
       •  What could we do to improve the customer experience?
       •  Which of your tools/resources do you find most helpful? Why?
       •  If you could invent a tool or resource to help you do your job, what would it be, and how would you use it?
       •  What does your team leader do that’s most helpful to you?
       •  If you were the team leader, what would you focus on (or do more of) and why?
       •  What additional support or resources do you need?
       •  What questions haven’t I asked that you wish I would?
       •  What questions can I answer for you?
  5. Follow-up – Share a summary of your notes and key take-aways with the group. When giving readouts to others, including the “skipped” leaders, be curious, not accusatory. Remember there’s always many interpretations of every story.

Are you looking to achieve better business results through stronger employee engagement and commitment? I can help. Please call me at 443-750-1249 for a free consultation.