10 Rules of Managing by Wandering Around

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The first time I ever heard about MBWA was a reference by Tom Peters in his ground breaking business book, IN SEARCH OF EXCELLENCE.   Sam Walton of Wal-Mart fame was known to walk stores with a baseball cap on with the initials sewn into the cap. So what’s the big deal? MBWA is the acronym for Managing by Wandering Around. Peters suggested that most managers only look for employees to be doing something wrong. And most employees are scared to death when they see the boss come down from the ivory tower to visit. We’ve all been there and if you think about it we also know that this fear can sometimes create the foundation for the entire culture of a company.  Unfortunately fear reduces team productivity; all but eliminates creativity; damages overall effectiveness and seriously affects turnover. It simply creates a management culture that can be a destructive issue and one that can literally kill a company large or small.

MBWA suggests that a great manager/leader should reverse the action and build an environment where they are on a mission to find employees doing the right things, good things within the work that they love doing.  The goal is to be looking for reasons to praise employees and team members in public. So in this new environment, when they see the boss coming they’re excited to see them.

So if you’re a business owner or manager, it’s time to “practice” MBWA.

Here are a few tips on building your “wandering around” skills.

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    1. Appear relaxed as you make your rounds. Employees will reflect your feelings and actions.
    2. Remain open and responsive to questions and concerns.
    3. Observe and listen and let everyone see you do it.
    4. Make certain your visits are spontaneous and unplanned.
    5. Talk with employees about their passions — whether family, hobbies, vacations, or sports.
    6. Ask for suggestions to improve operations, products, service, sales, etc.
    7. Try to spend an equal amount of time in all areas of your organization.
    8. Catch your employees doing something right and recognize them publicly.
    9. Convey the image of a coach — not an inspector.
    10. Encourage your employees to show you how the real work of the company gets done.

Try MBWA sometime in your management and leadership position. The time and money you spend in finding great employees and then keeping them is worth the effort. They just don’t need to spend time in a fearful environment when the world is focusing more and more on  stimulating work cultures .  The manager swinging the “YOU HAD BETTER FEAR ME” stick is a Neanderthal living in a new business world. That management tactic is archaic and long gone in its applicability and value.

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