I am, at heart, an analyst. There is nothing that would please me more than being able to shut my door and do some thinking and come up with plans and processes — then wait for the good results to come in. Of course, there is a major flaw: people. No, the people aren’t flawed (well, at least not fatally). The flaw is the assumption that people are “rational” the same way I am.
Other people did not “see” my obviously workable (and sometimes brilliant and elegant – ha!) approaches. It was clear to me, a young manager/analyst, that this inability was due to a lack of knowledge on their part — it coulnd’t be any lack on my part, could it?
Eventually, I developed enough bloody noses to get a message to the brain: as a manager of a talented team of people, it was my task not to simply command, but to lead.
“Ninety percent of leadership is the ability to communicate something people want.”
— Dianne Feinstein
I also found out pretty quickly that I wasn’t going to find out what people want by sitting in my office. So, some MBWA seemed to be called for — it was not what I wanted to do. I also suspected that I wasn’t much good at it — I was right. First, I wasn’t used to it and the team wasn’t used to it, either. Hey, what would you think about someone, who used to stay pretty much shut away, who suddenly begins to try to engage? While there was no epiphany, I continued to walk around and, at some point, trust and significant communication happened. The team got used to the idea that I’d be out and about and I let go of a rigid “by the rules” approach. By walking around my message was, “I’m available,” and “If there’s anything you need, you don’t have to file a triplicate form.” It didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen.
In this virtual world, MBWA is often not physically possible. However, I’ve found some principles are still sound. For me, it’s about proactively establishing an informal avenue of communication separate from the “official.”
I’ll never be naturally comfortable at MBWA, but there’s been just too many benefits for me to stay shut up in my office again.