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Leadership Thought #390 – Get Out From Behind Your Desk

A big red flag for me is when I encounter a leader who is always sitting behind his/her desk or always in meetings in their office.  I am also not a fan of a constant open door policy, but having your door closed all the time is much worse.  You need to get up from your chair, walk out of your office and circulate amongst your employees.  In addition, you need to also be out in the field regularly meeting with your top customers and business partners.  Leadership is an active not passive activity. 

It’s tempting to stay in the office and always keep an eye on things.  If anything of importance happens you will be there to navigate the ship.   However, especially as you grow, you will stifle your direct reports ability to step up and show what they can do if you are always looking over their shoulder.  It’s amazing what people can solve on their own if the boss isn’t there to assume the burden.  In addition, if you are always looking at things from the top down, you get a distorted view of what’s happening on the ground and in the trenches.

People tend to respect leaders they see and interact with.  The simple act of management by walking around the office or job site makes you visible and indicates you care about what’s going on.  You will get alot of traction by asking basic questions like the following:  “What could we improve around here?” or “What’s the biggest obstacle to your success right now?” or “What’s working well?” or “What do you like (or not like) about working here?”  Moreover, clients who do a lot of business with you like to see the leader every now and then.  They want to know that they are important to you and warrant high level attention.  You also get the chance to ask them questions about their needs, the industry, etc. which is always a good thing.   

There is a big part about leadership which is symbolic.  Once you grow beyond the start-up up phase, your efforts can sometimes feel less tangible but are actually more important.  You need to hire people to manage and tend to tasks.  Your job is to oversee the big picture of what’s going on, make sure all the parts are working well together, make good business decisions, ensure a positive culture/work environment, position the organization for long-term success, and maintain critical strategic relationships.   It’s very hard to do any of these things from behind a desk.    You need to be out there observing, learning and interacting with your customers, colleagues and employees.  You ultimately grow smarter about your business by regularly interacting with the people that matter to its success. 


One Response

  1. Well said….Specifically, the line about “the simple act of management by walking around”. It is not a new concept, but leaders tend to forget the basic act of “interacting with the team:.

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