The One Mistake to Avoid as a New Leader

You got the new job. You accepted the promotion. You’re in charge now. Whether you’re a first-time leader or an experienced manager in a new role, the first 100 days are critical. It’s important to set the tone early.

One of the biggest mistakes I see new leaders make is when they spend all their time working in their office. It’s even worse when they work with the door closed. It’s natural to feel the need to work hard when you are moved into a new role but isolating yourself is the worst thing you can do as a new leader. You need to get out of your office and go to where your people are. You need to employ MBWA.

“See and be seen. Get out of your office, walk the talk, make yourself visible and accessible.” J. Willard Marriot

MBWA stands for “Management by Wandering Around.” MBWA means getting out of your office and wandering around in an unstructured manner. The goal is to walk through the workplace to check with employees, equipment, and the status of ongoing work. MBWA was originally used at Hewlett-Packard and described in detail in the book, In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America’s Best-Run Companies. It’s a great way to “see and be seen.”

Here are 4 reasons why you should get out of your office and employ MBWA:

Observe. Go to where your people are and see what is going on. Observe the conditions, the mood, the work-in-progress, the activities, and the potential problems. In Lean Manufacturing terms, observe what is happening at gemba, the place where value is created. Don’t rely on reports of what is happening, go see it yourself. What is working? What isn’t? What problems do you see? What areas need improvement? A leader that observes his team understands their challenges.

“Expect what you inspect.” W. Edwards Deming

Listen. Listen to what your team is saying. People love to talk. Ask them what they are working on. Find out what they like and don’t like about their jobs. Ask them for areas they think should be improved. You’ll be surprised what you learn. Many employees have great ideas but they are reluctant to share because they were ignored by managers in the past. It may take a while to get the best ideas but keep at it. The more you listen, the more you show you care.

“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.” Bryant H. McGill

Be seen. One of the biggest reasons to get out of your office is to be seen. Your team will appreciate the fact you took the time to see what they are doing. It shows you care. They will also be observing you closely so you can use this time to demonstrate your values. If you spend time looking at the safety of the workplace, they will know you care about safety. If you pick up trash, they will see you care about having a clean workplace. Don’t underestimate the power of your presence.

“Quality requires your Presence.” Eckhart Tolle

Communicate. Spending time with your employees in their work environment gives you the opportunity to communicate one-on-one. This is when you can get to know your people more and answer their questions. It’s hard in large meetings to communicate the reasons for your actions but one-one-one time allows you to clarify. Listen and talking to your team shows respect and it demonstrates you care.

“Honest communication is built on truth and integrity and upon respect of the one for the other.” Benjamin E. Mays

Don’t make the mistake of spending all your time in your office and away from your team. Get out and be with your people. See and be seen. Communicate and listen. You will learn new things and observe what is really going on. Your team will appreciate that you took time out of your day to be with them.

What do you think? Have you tried MBWA? How did it work? What else can we gain by getting out of our office and going to where our people are? Let me know in the comment section below.

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