I was speaking at a management seminar in Fargo last week and a topic came up that turned into an interesting discussion on perceptions. Since this is a common situation that you might be facing, I thought I’d share the highlights of the conversation.
A participant brought up a challenge she was having with her boss. Seems that her boss spent a lot of time hanging around and chit-chatting with the team about non-work-related topics.
From her perspective, the boss was micro-managing and interrupting which was making it hard for the team to get their work done.
I can’t know for sure, but chances are pretty good the boss had good intentions. He probably thought he was doing the right thing by spending time with his team. In fact, he may have been practicing a leadership style called Management by Walking Around (MBWA), a style popularized after Tom Peters and Robert Waterman used it in their book In Search of Excellence: Lessons From America’s Best-Run Companies.
The original intention of MBWA was to get information in an unstructured, informal way about work-related matters like equipment, productivity, or how the employee was doing.
So, how can the leader bridge this gap so the employee doesn’t feel like they’re being checked up on or that the manager has nothing better to do than talk about their personal life?
Practice preactive communication. Preactive means to anticipate problems and deal with them in advance so when the action takes place it’s a non-issue.
Leaders, if you don’t want your good intentions to be misinterpreted as poor leadership, anticipate how your team might perceive your actions and pre-empt their assumptions.
It’s as simple as opening the lines of communication by letting them know that you’ll be practicing MBWA and asking them what concerns they might have about it. Once the practice starts, check in to get feedback so they can let you know if you are getting in their way.
Some leaders will push back on this and think ‘Really? I’m the boss. Why should I have to share all that information?’
Simple. You don’t want your team to have the perception that you’re a micro-manager or don’t have anything better to do. If you want to be a good manager, manage perceptions.
Liz Uram is a speaker and seminar leader who helps leaders get better results through clear communication. Get your free Guide to Giving Conflict-Free Employee Feedback here.