Walk The Floor
When I was 14 I started work in my first ‘real’ job as a shoe sales assistant. I worked for Freeman Hardy & Willis in Redditch at the weekends and during my school holidays.
Mr Hardy was the store manager. I had a huge degree of respect for Mr Hardy for lots of reasons but there was one thing that he did that made him stand out from many of the senior managers, owners or CEOs that I have known over the years. He ‘walked the floor’!
Mr Hardy made a point of walking the shop floor every day. He would take time to talk to his leadership team, to every sales assistant and he even spent time with his customers. He knew exactly how his business was performing, he knew how his customers felt about his business and he knew how every member of his team felt about his business too. He was also aware of the problems in his business, from the small but important issue of a lack of dishwashing fluid in the kitchen, to the bad batch of soles on the latest Clarkes shoes from yesterday’s delivery. He knew it all and he fixed it all!
I may have been only 14 but I knew then that I wanted to be a manager like Mr Hardy, to have the same honest, open and transparent qualities that he had.
A CEO, founder or business owner often becomes more abstracted from the people in his or her company, especially as the company grows. Finding the time to talk to everyone becomes a challenge and all too often it just becomes easier to not talk to all of the people in your business.
So it is with large programs of work or large scale projects. As a project or program manager you will have a pretty busy time of engaging your stakeholders, dealing with risks and issues, keeping track of the schedule, directing your leadership team and counting the beans.
Walking the floor is a simple way of engaging the project team. Try to make time each day to talk to a number of people in your team, make sure that you talk to them about their work, their home life and their interests. Make a point of asking about their concerns and their problems. Give them direction and if you make a promise to help them then make sure that you follow through on your promise!
You won’t be able to talk to everyone each and every day but you will be able to talk to everyone at least every 4-5 weeks. Keep in touch with your team, build a relationship with everyone in your project team, listen to them, help them, guide them, support them and help them be more effective in their job.
Finally, remember that not everything that you read in the newspaper or online is true and so it follows that not everything that you are told is true either! Talk to your team directly and discover the truth for yourself. Qualify the things that you are told with those that are doing the job on a day by day basis. Check their progress, their forecasts for completion, listen to their views or concerns and put all of this into perspective with everything that you have been told by the team as a whole.
Yes, walking the floor keeps you closer to your team, gives you a greater understanding of how your team works, it helps you take the ‘temperature’ of your project and it gives you the first hand intelligence that you need to deliver a successful project.
Walk the floor. Engage. Listen. Enjoy!