How Senior Leaders Can Connect with Front Line Workers

This was the title of an October 14th, 2014 article in Smart Briefs, and I thought it deserved both some comment and wider distribution.

Here are the methods:

1. Distributed leadership. Push leadership down through your company to your direct reports, and they to theirs, but don’t forget to ‘manage by wandering around’. We’ve noticed among our clients that this is an important CEO attribute. If Alan Mullaly, the retired head of Ford can do it about once a month on an unannounced basis, you can too.

2. Make it safe to share. Solicit all kinds of feedback, positive and negative, and have employees understand that there won’t be reprisals for negative feedback. Keep the tone respectful in the exchanges.

3. Meet employees where they are. This is ‘management by walking around’, the famous Tom Peters phrase. Employee open houses are a good idea, but not in the executive area or floor, because they’ll feel threatened. Make it a neutral space, such as a break room.

4. Be flexible about the forum. If you’re an introvert, get outside your comfort zone for a bit. Meet wherever the employees feel most comfortable. Make it like ‘ask me anythng’.

5. Make room for impromptu encounters. Unscheduled, unscripted chats can do as much or more than scripted ones.

6. Ask good questions of those asking you questions. Don’t make the questions snarky, which might prove counterproductive. Explore what the asker has on his/her mind.

If you’re not doing all of these things, get with it. You’re sacrificing the culture of the company that you want. Or, just maybe you get the culture you want if you don’t do these things.

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