Some of us remember the days when we could lock ourselves in the office, turn off the phone, and put the outside world on hold. But now—what with texts, social media updates, instant messages, and the incessant vibrating and chiming of our mobile devices that deliver them—we are always connected.
Or are we?
Ironically, the very technology that is designed to connect us with one another often separates us from our team and prevents us from enjoying in-person, face-to-face interactions. We choose to talk via text rather than chat via…well…chatting.
And there are consequences.
Consider this: a recent survey conducted by NFI Research showed more than two-thirds of senior executives and managers said they believed their organizations would be more productive if “personal discussion” was used to disseminate information. That seems simple enough, right? Well, it’s becoming extremely difficult for us to engage with employees and peers on a personal level and keep them engaged for more than a few seconds at a time—that is, unless you know how to “unplug” as needed.
When was the last time you unplugged from your devices, left your office, and spent time with your team? Regardless of whether it’s chatting with peers near the proverbial water cooler or going to lunch with your employees, spending even a few minutes unplugged from your devices will make a world of difference in workplace productivity and massively increase levels of engagement and inspiration.
A study of 32,000 people performed by research firm Leadership IQ demonstrated the impact of a team member spending six hours per week with an organizational leader in-person. The results?
• 29 percent said they became more inspired about their work.
• 30 percent said they felt more engaged (and perhaps just as important, more likely to recommend their company as a great place to work).
• 15 percent said they became more intrinsically motivated and were able to find something interesting in their everyday work tasks.
The same holds true all the way up the line: Middle managers pointed out their highest levels of inspiration came after they spent nine to 10 hours per week interacting with their leader, while executives said they experienced their highest levels of inspiration after they dedicated seven to eight hours per week connecting with their leader.
Do you see a pattern here?
Clearly, employees, middle managers, and executives want face time (not FaceTime) with leadership—you just need to be there to give it to them. And if you embrace the practice of “Management by Wandering Around” (MBWA), you’ll be able to do just that.
MBWA is nothing new; in fact, this concept originated at Hewlett Packard and was popularized by legendary business gurus Tom Peters and Bob Waterman in their classic book, In Search of Excellence. Even though Excellence was originally published way back in 1982—long before social media was even a gleam in Silicon Valley’s eye—MBWA is more important now than ever before.
Here’s the idea behind MBWA. It’s very subtle. Pay close attention or you might miss this:
Get out of your office and talk with folks.
Rather than planning a set date and time to meet with people, wander around and check in with employees at any location, at any time. Your best conversations and connections will happen spontaneously; all you have to do is create the opportunity for it to happen.
Tim Eisenhauer, co-founder and president of Axero Solutions, told CIO that spending time with employees and giving them an opportunity to connect with one another results in a more positive corporate culture. “Let employees relax and converse,” he says.
The next time you’re tempted to send an email to the person in the next office or cubicle, just pop over for a minute and breathe the same oxygen. And don’t bring your phone with you—the Internet will still be there when you return to your desk.