Management Success Series Tip #2: Being Visible to Your People

Tip #1 of the Management Success Series described influence as a key ingredient in good managers.  You have to be able to maneuver and pull various levers to make things happen, while simultaneously pulling your team along with you.  Influence, like trust, is something that is built over time but easily lost.   A good means of establishing your influence and building trust is by being visible to your team.

Many managers overlook the importance of visibility.  What is visibility?  Visibility is reaching your employees every day.  Visibility is taking a few brief seconds to say ‘hello’ as you’re walking back from the printer.  Visibility is keeping your office door open even when you don’t want to be disturbed.

In contrast, sending periodic emails to connect to your team is not visibility.  Keeping your door closed so you can work in peace and quiet is not visibility.  And keeping your head down on the way back from the printer to read the document is not visibility.

If your office is like mine, phones are ringing, people are running off to meetings and there is a general hum throughout the day.  It is easy to get caught up in the all the activity.  It is easy to forget the fact that while you are running to that meeting or dialing into the next conference call, your troops are hard at work.

Being visible is just that: being seen by your people and you acknowledging them. Employee morale and motivation are highly derived through your connections with your team members.   Spending a few minutes walking around each day to join the water cooler conversations enables managers to interact with their employees on a more casual basis.  It is a non-threatening form of communication and a way to reinforce your influence.

Walking around the office and interacting with employees may seem obvious and a regular part of the day, but because we are under constant pressure and stress, many managers forget the importance of this behavior.  Imagine, from your employees’ perspective, what you’d think if you sat outside the boss’s office and he or she rarely says a word to you.   Imagine when you go to the break room and your boss comes in to get some tea, but doesn’t even say hello or ask how the weekend was.

For offsite employees, it’s obviously not possible to walk over and talk with them about the latest gadget or YouTube video.  You can however schedule frequent meetings to keep tabs on what they’re doing and to simply let them know you’re aware they exist. In my case, I meet privately with my local employees once a month as a more formal check-in.  With my remote employees, private meetings are scheduled on a weekly basis.

So if you want to be an effective manager, seek to gain that influence and reinforce it through casual visibility.  The few seconds it takes to engage in a conversation about weekend plans or to talk about the upcoming cricket match will consume far less time than if you have to deal with engagement issues or poor performance due to lack of trust.

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