If you’re in a leadership position and perpetually find yourself under an inordinate amount of stress, as you seem to attract more than your fair share of problems, it may be self-inflicted.
When we are promoted into positions of leadership, we naturally understand our lives may be filled with a few more headaches as additional, heavier responsibilities are placed upon us. Why else would we be earning the big bucks? Think about it – as newly anointed leaders, we no longer have the luxury of worrying only about ourselves – we are also expected to manage others to ensure department goals are met and projects are completed to expectation. If we don’t perform, game over.
If you’ve ever participated in a management training course, you may have been taught one of the more popular approaches to managing others referred to as Management By Wandering Around (MBWA). It is a strategy by which managers wander through the office, unannounced, to engage with employees, get updates on projects, become aware of possible issues or problems, and solicit suggestions for improvements. Managers who consistently and skillfully practice MBWA foster a climate in which employees feel comfortable to raise concerns, identify problems, and offer ideas and possible solutions.
However, if you practice MBWA and find that your stress levels are shooting through the roof, it may be because you are not using effective communication skills such as Active Listening and Problem-Solving. If employees feel you have a hidden agenda, are asking leading questions or are not listening with the intent to truly understand, they will be reluctant to share their true concerns and feelings. Since the purpose of MBWA is to learn about the status of ongoing work by engaging in a meaningful way with the people who are actually doing it, the use of these skills is essential.
If you wish to practice MBWA more effectively, let your people know that you’re very interested in what they have to say—both about what’s working well and what needs improvement from their perspective. Then when they open up and communicate to you, make sure you fully understand what they mean by Active Listening to them. In many cases, future problems can be prevented either by implementing their suggestions or by coming up with a solution together to solve a problem on the spot. When the problem is more complex, it’s important that you follow through to make sure it gets addressed. This lets employees know that you and the organization care about improving and value their ideas and suggestions.
Your ability and willingness to engage with your people in this way is a change that will lead to better results.