Walk Slowly

Do you aspire to be a better leader in 2008? If so, you may consider walking slower through your office or shop talking to folks more than you do today.

In lean speak we often use the phrase genchi genbutsu which basically means to go to the floor to see what is happening. In other words, problems are not solved in conference rooms – instead they are solved on the gemba – or the place the actual work is done.

Along this same spirit I believe it is equally important we as leaders take the time to head to the gemba and simply talk to people. Get to know them. Ask them about their kid’s baseball game. Let them know you are a decent person with a heart and soul just like them.

Once you build a solid personal and professional relationship with these folks improvement will come much easier and be far more enjoyable.

Of course this does not mean you have to be best friends with everyone. Further, a leader must be careful to not cross the line (especially after hours at the bar). But if you are viewed as a high and mighty outsider you are in for tough sledding.

The best leaders I have known walk through the office or shop and literally get bombarded with smiles, hellos, and high fives. Interestingly enough these same leaders consistently meet or exceed their operational goals quarter after quarter.

Why is this? I believe it’s partly due to the fact they have taken the time to connect with their employees on both a personal and professional level. A simple concept yet far more daunting than most realize.

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5 Comments

  1. Toby Reynolds

    January 6, 2008 - 8:28 pm

    Man I couldn’t agree more! My current manager is great at this. It is very motivational and makes us want to work hard. I like him as a person and a boss and I want him to succeed. And he only succeeds when I do my best. But in the end it is win/win for all parties involved. Great article.

  2. Ron Pereira

    January 6, 2008 - 9:57 pm

    Thanks for the comment Toby.

    I am glad to hear you have a great boss! It makes all the difference in the world. I too have a great boss (jeesh his head is probably getting big since he reads my blog from time to time).

    But really if you hate (or don’t respect) the management in your company how likely are you to enjoy yourself? And if you don’t enjoy yourself chances are you won’t be doing good work. Everyone loses then.

  3. Rick Foreman

    January 7, 2008 - 8:36 am

    Great post! Your comments could not be more true if an organization really wants to change and sustain a continuously improving culture. There is much to be said of the people side of lean that many refuse to approach. As leaders, making a difference through positive influence impacts the team members beyond the work environment, which in return will enhance the work environment.
    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Mark Graban

    January 7, 2008 - 8:55 pm

    Ron – I think you’re on the mark that a leader can’t be hated by the employees. But, I think being friendly and human is “necessary, but not sufficient.” I’ve seen managers to whom “gemba walk” meant walking through and shooting bull with everyone. They all felt good, but accomplished nothing.

    So “Once you build a solid personal and professional relationship with these folks improvement will come much easier and be far more enjoyable.” is probably the key point in your piece, I think.

    If you’re saying hi and not asking “so what problems are you facing right now?” or “what improvements have you made lately?”, we might all be friends together on the unemployment line.

    At some point, “it’s better to be respected than liked” is a topic worth discussing too.

  5. Ron Pereira

    January 8, 2008 - 9:13 am

    Good points Mark.

    I think being respected and liked can and should go hand in hand. There is no reason it can’t.

    I have seen leaders make tough decisions (e.g. layoffs) but the way they handled it (with compassion and honesty) allowed them to remain both respected and liked (as much as one can like someone when learning they are losing their job).

    Perhaps I will dig into this topic more after some thought.