As your career progresses and you start to manage people, a phenomenon will occur. You will become more distant from the frontlines, the place where the majority of operations are occurring. It will happen naturally, as others will be involved in the day-to-day, and you will supervise and work on the company’s strategy.
The distance is inevitable and even necessary because you need time and space to make decisions. As a manager, your time will be spent thinking and processing information. But to make the best decisions about your company’s direction, you also must be in touch with the company’s day-to-day activities. It requires a delicate balance between getting the information and creating the space to think.
If you only allow yourself to be pulled away from the front, you might not be in touch with those making the decisions or seeing the results of those decisions. From there, you might be making decisions that will impact them, but you’ll have a limited picture of what is occurring, therefore causing you to miss important information and increase your chances of making a mistake.
I know it’s hard because we have so many demands on our time – from one-on-ones and hiring people, to managing and talking to our clients, creating processes, and improving how our companies operate. The demands are incessant. I struggle with the same thing, and in fact, I’m writing this blog to motivate myself to improve in this area!
We all know there are a set of practices we must have to do our jobs well, but they may easily get lost in the daily bustle. I make it a point to visit those I work with and have recurrent meetings to check up on how things are going, but I can also be a victim of my own success. My managers have become so skilled that I no longer have to get involved with many of the operating details.
Now, I must develop new routines to continue to find the information I have been missing. Here are some practices I am already doing and some I will implement for myself:
Visit Our Different Locations
If you have more than one location, it might be hard to be present in all of them. I’m implementing set times in my schedule when I visit them all. During these trips, I take the time to talk to people and see how they are doing. I listen and let them tell me what is happening. Often, I will learn something new or see something I have never seen before. I always look for dissonant information, anything that disconfirms what I already know, and bring back anything useful to mull over and improve.
Create Training Programs
This year, I also plan to take more time to train all of our new hires. I want our new people to hear directly from me. Many of the people I trained before have fully absorbed our company culture, but I have not had the time to interact with the new hires as I would like. So this year, I intend to teach more about who we are and how each person can succeed at their work. During these training sessions, I will get the opportunity to interact with people in a more intimate setting and hopefully learn more from them.
Create Opportunities to Interact with Others in the Company
Find ways to interact with people you would not normally see. We have monthly company meetings. During those meetings, I make it a point to talk to people I would not ordinarily talk to to see how they are doing. I am also considering taking a manager and someone from their team out to lunch a couple of times during the month to see if I can get to know people better and learn about what is happening to them.
I hope these ideas help you and, please, let me know if you have any others!