Published 08/28/12

How to avoid tripping up when you manage by walking around

In this column for Philanthropy Journal, Prof. Michael A. Roberto offers managers five tips for getting positive results when they practice management by walking around:

  • Be open minded. Workers need to believe that they are being given a legitimate opportunity to influence decisions. If workers perceive that managers have already made up their minds on certain issues, they'll see efforts to solicit input as disingenuous.
  • Listen. Senior managers who spend too much time talking and not enough time listening are missing an important opportunity.  There are many ways to communicate messages to the front lines, so save your time when meeting with workers to solicit feedback.
  • Save criticism. Employees or volunteers may perceive the visit as an "inspection" rather than a genuine effort to solicit input and ideas, leading them to feel that management does not trust them.
  • Don't be a stranger. Workers change their behavior because of the presence of senior managers. Therefore, managers who rarely get out and talk with their people do not get a sense of what's really going on in the organization. Make sure your people see you often enough so that your presence doesn't seem unusual.
  • Follow up. When an employee or volunteer makes a suggestion or asks a question, it is critical to follow up in a timely manner. Failure to follow up diminishes trust and can demoralize your people.

(Prof. Lynda St. Clair assisted with writing the article.)