If you are a manager at any level, a leader, or even a coordinator of a group of people, you should be doing what is sometimes referred to as a regular ‘walkabout’. What is this? A walkabout is time spent walking among, and connecting with, your team or employees. This is a set time, maybe an hour a week, with no agenda – just a time to connect at any level with the folks that work for you.
Our employees today want to feel connected at work. They want to be a part of a community that is interesting, challenging and even fun. But as well, they need to feel connected in some way to their managers and leaders. Without this connection they might begin to feel that no one cares, no one is paying attention and that if there were troubles in their lives or work, no one would know.
A regular, if not weekly, walkabout among your team is vital to making this connection. It will help to identify unhappiness, personal or professional issues, important milestones in employee’s lives and more. This is the part of our relationship with our team that can make a difference between long-term happy employees and high turnover unhappy employees.
An important distinction here… this is an opportunity to take an interest in people personally – but not to become personally connected. There is a difference and as a leader and manager, this is important.
Your walkabout should be a regularly scheduled, diarized event in your weekly calendar. Otherwise it will definitely slip after the first or second round. The time you set aside depends on the size of your team. You don’t have to speak to everyone but you definitely have to show your face to everyone.
I was running a leadership workshop last week where we were discussing what great leaders do in the first three weeks of their jobs. One attendee commented that they recently acquired a new executive leader. The first three days were great as she met everyone and made a great effort to connect with as many people as possible. That was the good news. The bad news was that they never saw her again. Buried in an office with lots to do. That’s no excuse. Your priority must be regular connection with your team.
Depending on your ability to remember a lot of detail about a lot of people you should be employing a science to this walkabout. My memory is lousy so after my walkabouts I am recording information that is important to those relationships that I’ve just touched. Pending events like weddings or babies, past or future holiday travels, health issues and more. If I hear of an event in the future I will diarize a follow-up conversation on a future walkabout . Some may say that this applied science makes it phony but I don’t care. People genuinely appreciate my interest regardless of how much science I applied to it.
If you know me well, you will know that I have a birthday call list in my life. These are phone calls (not emails, not text messages, not Facebook comments) that I make throughout the year to people in my life. Family, friends, staff, coworkers are all on the list. The recipients love the call. I love the call because it allows me to touch base with some very important people in my life. But I don’t ‘wing’ this. All of these calls are diarized annually and I am reminded 24 hours prior to each call. (I love technology.) No one cares how I remember to call them. They just appreciate the call.
If you need to cover more people than you have time for, then put your groups on a rotation basis. Schedule the different teams each week. Read your notes before you return to the team. Make a point of following up on some of the conversations you had when you spoke to them last. Note the people you have missed the last time that you might want to connect with this time.
Regardless of whether you apply a science to this or not, taking an interest in the personal and professional lives of your team members in this casual approach is vital to a happy and engaged team.
Take one hour a week, shut down your life, relax and walkabout your team. You will be amazed at what you learn and you will be amazed at the reaction of the audience. This is a win-win for all of us.
When Was the Last Time You Did an Office ‘WalkAbout’?
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