What if I go walkabout and disrupt my people by visiting them?

What if I go walkabout and disrupt my people by visiting them?

The Leadership “WHAT IF” series – No 1

One of the sure signs of power is that when you call people they come and when you dismiss them they go. It is biblical. So you sit in your office and summon people to attend you, like a King at Court. You expect them to grovel – well, certainly a little bit. Power is the greatest aphrodisiac in the world, why should you miss out on the fun?

‘Knowing who we are and where we are’ – two of the keys to success in this world. So we make sure that everyone else knows, just to be sure. In fact, we make more effort to let everyone else know than to find out for ourselves – pretty stupid, when you think of it. What does it matter what the other person thinks if you are certain about yourself? Confidence, that elusive ingredient of management that is so seldom taught correctly, comes from self-knowledge including understanding our weaknesses and capitalising on our strengths.

So you make a firm resolution to get out and ‘walk the talk’. Then an outside supplier needs to see you, or some new recruit to the business, or one of your staff functions – Head of HR, perhaps – and all your good resolutions disappear. So comfortable in your own office, so useful to have your EA pour the coffee and block the phone calls. Anyway, your time is more valuable, isn’t it? So the resolution gets deferred – in the end, forever. You are the loser.

So difficult is this particular discipline that I had myself locked out of my office for a few hours each day, four days a week. That forced me to visit people, to stop by and have a coffee, to engage in mini, unstructured meetings – a good gossip about what is going on. They were the most valuable of all the meetings I attended. Informality leads to creativity; formality, to boxed-in thinking. That is why I recommend that you leave your office and visit others for a significant amount of your time. What happens when you do?

The most noticeable all the changes that take place is the way your colleagues become more transparent, more willing to share their thoughts and worries. I even found that people would often consult me about their domestic and family issues – but never in my office. There it was strictly “on parade”. There are times when you need that. Visiting investors and bosses must hear the same story. They will be looking for order, so show it to them.

Disruption is happening all around us. Industry after industry is disrupted by new ideas and advancing technology. This is not new – hawker stalls disrupted the catering trade and fast food outlets then disrupted the hawker stalls. Today the speed and scale of disruption are quite different. To cope with them doesn’t require that you tidy them up and present them in a smart folder. It needs you to pre-disrupt your own business and have a view about what is coming and the implications of that for the future of the business. Disrupt yourself before the others do it for you is a sound piece of advice today.

The second thing I noticed was the increase in ideas coming from those who worked for me. From factory floor to business head people stopped being afraid of trying on a crackpot idea. I never slapped them down. Just having the thought and courage to voice ideas was something worth rewarding, even if the ideas themselves were not always viable. Many ideas could be built on and their consequences ranged from cost savings to new products. The best ideas don’t always come from the laboratory.

Perhaps the most valuable of all the lessons I learnt was the willingness of employees to make the effort to do a good job just for the reward of doing it. Of course they wanted to earn as much as possible and those who were eligible for stock options appreciated the added security it gave them. But almost without exception they learnt The Alf Tuck Method of assessing a great job.

It tells you who most needs to know you have done a good job. That could be disruptive.



If you don’t know The Alf Tuck Method and would like to, drop us a line and we’ll send you the short story – mentors@terrificmentors.com.