It doesn’t matter how clever we are. Nor does it matter how many books, forums or surveys we read. Nor how many official meetings we attend. If we do not get out there to “press the flesh” we are not going to be across what is really happening in the world we are responsible for.
Without directly talking to those you have responsibility for – whether this be your employees, customers, investors, family or community – how can you really be confident you have a handle on their real sentiment and emotion? Can you really know how your recent decisions have impacted them? Be certain that what you think is important to them is the same as what they think is important?
The only way to really know is to stop, ask and to listen yourself to the people you are responsible for, and if you can, to spend some time “walking in their shoes”. This can never be met by having this outsourced or filtered through other people.
It may require you to consider it as an imperative, a percentage of time you set aside, or build it into your daily schedule to ensure you are spending enough time being physically connected to the people you are leading and are responsible for. As much as possible, be engaged regularly and as close as possible on their terms, without the formality of a pre-determined agenda. The less rehearsed the encounter, the fresher your read on what is really happening.
It does not have to take up a huge chunk of your time or be a major single event. You can daily walk the corridors and visit workstations taking time to talk to people on the way to somewhere else. Or allocate a day a month to visit your customers’ businesses – and really talk to those who are using your products or services. Or man the phones, have open lunches, create social events and actively participate or help out if someone is away. There are many ways you can get out there and press the flesh. But it is essential that you break the shackles of your work desk. You need to go where you do not normally go. Talk to those you don’t normally talk to. You need to look to encounter as much of a reality of all your people (those you have a responsibility for) as you can.
The powerful return is far greater than helping others feel good. It is about getting a firsthand account and measure of what exactly is happening. It allows you to see what actions you may wish or need to take. What priorities to adjust or what new initiatives you may need to introduce. You may discover you need to make different types of investments or decisions but it is more than likely you will discover that you will need to improve general communications.
You may discover that this practice uncovers a great new opportunity. An idea that can set your organization apart. A product concept that becomes the next big thing. Or just find that these actions of you connecting can energize your team to deliver something greater than before.
If you genuinely care about your people and align everyone under a common vision that they believe in, they too will respond with care, passion and commitment. By engaging directly, they will feel valued and that they have a voice. That they are not dispensable or not important to you, but are instead seen by you to be important and part of helping create something great.
One of the more likely outcomes is the energy source you yourself will gain. Remembering why you went into business, corporate, NFP or office in the first place.
So go on, get out there. Start pressing the flesh. Now.