Inch by inch it’s a cinch; by the mile, it’s a trial. – Zig Ziglar
MBWA – Management by Walking Around. A concept that is critical to your leadership development. This concept has been around for over a hundred years. Throughout the Civil War, even President Lincoln made it a point to “get out and circulate among the troops.” In fact he relieved General John Fremont from his command in 1861 because in his words, “His cardinal mistake is that he isolates himself, and allows nobody to see him; and by which he does not know what is going on in the very matter he is dealing with.”
Today is really no different. Leaders need to circulate among the troops. Unfortunately, instead of Management by Walking Around, the troops often see this as Management by Wandering Aimlessly. Many leaders today are not taking a commanding presence in the front line of the workforce.
Many of today’s leaders are multi-tasking all day; so much so that, while they are not locking themselves in their offices, they simply are doing more work (managing things) and spending less time leading their employees. When they do get out and try to circulate, they are viewed as “checking up” on everyone and not communicating or leading.
This lack of simple communication leads to weaker relationships between management and team members. The interesting part is that many of today’s front line leaders do not practice MBWA because they say it is not their style or how they choose to lead. Hogwash!
If a leader wants to build a team, that leader needs to be out in front leading, as the great ones have in the past. Some say, “I am not comfortable with this.” Well then, learn it and practice it.
In an article in Fortune Magazine (October 19, 2006) British researches revealed that “The evidence we have surveyed… does not support the (notion that) excelling is a consequence of possessing innate gifts.”
What this is saying is that MBWA needs to be practiced like everything else we need to do. The first few times the leader attempts this, most likely, they will feel quite uncomfortable and maybe even fail.
In my workshops, I have attendees sign their name on the cover of the workbook. After a few minor exercises, I have them return to the front of the workbook and sign their name again, this time I tell them to use their other hand to sign.
This is usually met with groans and moans as well as “I can’t do it,” etc. After a few moments, however, everyone (usually everyone) completes the task. Then I ask, “What was the purpose of that exercise?”
There are actually two reasons behind my exercise.
- To get people out of their comfort zone and actually try something they think they cannot do, and to prove that they could do it. It may not look pretty, yet they did it.
- Secondly, and longer lasting, is the fact that if they were to actually practice signing their name everyday, using their opposite hand, for a period of 30 days, they would certainly get better at this simple task. This goes to show that practice does indeed make you better.
Now, let’s apply this to MBWA. If leaders will simply take some time out of their day, at least a few times per week, to walk around and chat with their employees, they will learn more about them and, ultimately, build a stronger level of trust and create a better team environment.
As my friend and colleague Zig Ziglar says, “Inch by inch it’s a cinch; by the mile, it’s a trial.” So continue practicing, just make sure you are practicing.