Trust but Verify: How the Truth can be Eroded at Every Layer of Management
It’s true that some leaders live in the clouds of management and their view of the ground (aka production floor) is often blurry and distorted. Perhaps they are missing the red flags being waived as a project falls behind schedule, perhaps they can’t hear the S.O.S cries from employees needing more direction. Either way, problems within a project can go unnoticed by those who are furthest away from the physical labors of production.
Sometimes it takes an outsider, such as a consultant, to detect, highlight, and address the apparent disconnect between the ground floor and the top floor. A common observation made is that management by PowerPoint, Emails, and VP briefings is not enough. Leaders need to venture beyond Mahogany Avenue and walk the plant floor as often as they can.
One effective solution to enhance face-to-face interactions is to replace some office meetings with “Walk and Talk” meetings. These are beneficial to everyone in the organization; not to mention the health benefits of exercising that come along with it! Some of the most powerful business leaders that I’ve met or heard of start their day by walking the production facility. They stand at the front entrance to greet employees as they come in to work. They replaced the “Gym Lunch Hour” with facility tours, or attended “Lunch & Learn” with their employees. Their faces are seen, and they take the time to spend their time with the employees that run the floor.
It’s so important for employees to see and interact with their leaders on a regular basis in order to build trust and mutual respect. Furthermore, leaders can learn a lot from spending just a few minutes talking to their employees. They may even gain an understanding of the important issues that are omitted from PowerPoint presentations; often filtered out by the 4-7 layers of management to avoid “looking bad or incapable”. I’ve often told clients that with every layer of management, they are losing 10% of the facts/truth. If you really want to know what’s going on in your company, hit the floor.
Some may argue that leaders need to operate at 30,000 feet to avoid distraction by tiny details or be perceived as micro-managers. Most effective leaders can strike a balance between micro-management and invisible management.
In addition to floor time, it is recommended that leaders invite outsiders to perform a regular “pulse check” of the organization. It is fascinating how much critical information an experienced consultant can uncover in a short period of time and be able to bridge a gap between what is reported and the actual “State of the Organization”.
Many effective leaders rely on their outer circle of trusted consultant(s) and advisor(s) to tell them what their inner circle falls short of reporting. Whether it’s fear of committing career suicide, or facing retaliation, withholding important facts can sometimes result in setbacks to the entire organization.
To be an effective consultant you must have an equally strong relationship with every layer of management yet the strongest of all needs to be with the general workforce.
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