The Boss Knows All And Is Everywhere
One day I was having a conversation with Kevin, one of the
people that works for me. Kevin is an excellent employee who is
doing very well, and I just had taken a minute to tell him he
had done a good job on something. I feel it's very important to
let people know when they have done something good (even more
important than catching them doing wrong things).
Kevin thanked me and turned back to setting up a computer. I
paused, then asked him if he'd fixed Lori's system yet. Kevin
looked a little shocked - he hadn't told anyone about Lori's
system. He just looked at me and asked how I knew so much. I
just smiled and walked away.
It got me to thinking, though, about the importance of the boss
knowing everything that's going on in the immediate environment.
This is not only important, it is critical for long range
survival in the office.
How so? Well, the job of a boss is to keep his team producing as
optimally as possible. It's very simple and this basic rule does
not change regardless of the rank of the boss (and actually all
employees for that matter). The job of everyone in a company is
to produce as much as possible.
The boss must act quickly when anything happens to reduce the
effectiveness of his team. He must be fast to correct problems
and misunderstandings, and he must quickly give out praise when
The only way he can do this is by knowing what is going on at
all times. Personally, I am a huge fan of the "management by
walking around" technique. When used properly, it's very
effective. It's a very simple procedure. Just get up from your
chair once in a while and walk around. Look over people's
shoulders, see what they are working on and praise them briefly
if you catch them doing something right.
There's more to it than that, however. You have to wander around
more than just your own people. You need to talk to other people
as well. Call up your customers (whomever your group performs
services for) and find out how they feel and what's on their
mind as regards your people.
You should make these calls often, at least several times a
week. Just pick some people whom your group serves and either go
talk to them personally or talk to them on the phone (email is
NOT a good way to gather this information as you need to have a
dialog and see reactions). Remember, these are not intended to
be investigations - you are simply keeping in touch and gently
probing for any information that's relevant.
So how did I know about Lori's system? Simple, I had talked to
Annette earlier in the day. Annette mentioned that Lori might be
unhappy, so I wandered over to Lori's desk and just started
talking. Before long, Lori mentioned that her system had not
been delivered as promised. She said that Kevin was working on
it and she did not know the status.
There was nothing wrong here, nothing that Kevin was doing
needed to be corrected. I knew that Kevin would get around to
finishing the system before too long ... but I wanted him to
know, as well, that I knew what was going on. A gentle nudge was
all it took to get Lori taken care of, as well as to deliver the
message that I had other information sources than just the one's
that Kevin knew about.
Remember to keep in touch with other people as well, although
perhaps not as often. You should talk to vendors, business
partners, peers, and anyone else that might come in contact with
your people. Just talk to them (these are not interrogations)
and file away the comments in your mind for the appropriate time.
Of course, if during these conversations you find out anything
that does need to be handled, then by all means do it.
What is the purpose of all of this? It's very straightforward.
You are building up respect. You see, a boss that knows what's
happening at all times is much more likely to be obeyed and
respected than one who is not. It's hard to respect someone who
It's very easy and actually quite fun when you get the hang of
it. Sometimes the shocked look on someone's face when you
indicate that you knew about such and such is a reward all on
How do you use this information? Get into the habit of asking
your people questions. You might ask them how they feel about
their workplace environment or whether their work is challenging
enough for them (this shows that you care). Then you might
commend them for working an extra hour a few days ago (how the
heck did you know that, the employee will think). You might ask
another employee else how the food was at Black Angus the day
before, or ask if the employee needed help on the Anderson
You see the technique? You are asking your people for their
opinions and feelings, which means that you care about them. You
know what's going on, which means they are much less likely to
do something wrong, as they understand that you will find out
(there will be no doubt in their minds).
Simply put, you respect your people enough to keep in touch with
them, and they will return that respect a hundred times over.
And that's all there is to that.