Leadership by Walk Around (LBWA)

Up-Close-and-Personal in Healthcare

Senior leaders have tremendous responsibilities for the overall welfare of the organization and a great opportunity to practice LBWA. Many times it is easy for senior level leaders to get caught in an abundance of scheduled meetings to the point that they begin to unintentionally distant themselves from the employees doing the actual work that produces a needed product or service for the organization.

Leadership by walk around at any leadership management level of an organization is a great way to keep a finger on the pulse of an organization. Senior leaders and middle management find great benefits to being accessible and co-mingling in areas that the employees are working. Traditionally this has been described as “Management By Walking Around.”

Replace Management with Leadership
Replacing Management With Leadership

Management and leadership have different meaning. Simply defined- Management is overseeing with some level of control work processes and the people that perform the work. Leadership is having influence and casting corporate vision for the organization. Some organizations foster a corporate culture of all employees being considered leaders. This type of organization believes that people lead themselves daily and are accountable to their work.

Leadership by Walk Around Benefits:

  • Increase in employees sense of support from leadership
  • Valuable face-to-face communication experience with employees
  • Improved employees engagement from being valued by leadership
  • Expanded empathy in leadership for the work being done by employees
  • Firsthand insights into operations performance and improvement opportunities
  • Decreased divisive mindset – from “Us/Them” mindset to personal relationship culture

Don’t be surprised if employees begin to express that they want you to visit their work area!
Employees are proud of their work and want to show their leadership what they do for the organization.

Making LBWA Work For You:

Schedule LBWA as part of your work day: If you are like me, if something makes it into my schedule, it means I take it seriously and give it importance. Make LBWA a priority, schedule it into your day as a requirement – not the exception. Do not other responsibilities override this commitment since it has the power to transform your culture.

Take a breath and slow down: Try to place yourself into the rhythm on the area you are in. This is not about speed walking or talking, but intentionally taking time to observe and communicate with staff.

Listen more than talk: Active listening to the employee creates the largest impact of any aspect of the Walk Around.

Think about the schedule you are entering:  You are on the employees turf. Consider elements of their schedule such as “rush” hours, shift changes, and other predictable requirements which can make your visit less positive and more stressful. Target appropriate opportunities to ask questions or talk.

Show respect: Don’t be intrusive because you are the boss. Be respectful of their work responsibilities. Value their busyness as you would your own, knowing that their responsibilities don’t change simply because you show up.

Help them win: Jump in and give a helping hand if appropriate. Lift the load some if possible. This shows that even tough this is not your normal job, you are willing to roll up your sleeves and help out.

Establish common ground: Get to know employees personally. General conversation, such as favorite hobbies, sports team, family or children- builds commonality and camaraderie with co-workers. Treat people like humans and not robots performing work.

Show and express gratitude: Don’t forget to say “thank you” for their work and efforts. Don’t make the mistake of being “hard to impress!” Even if something is in their job description, thanking them for executing it and contributing to the success of the organization makes a difference!

Give specific praise: Find something positive or complement them. Coming from their senior leader, validating words and approval can strongly reinforce their efforts at excellence, and is greatly appreciated.

Expect some staff to seem fearful: If employees are not used to seeing top leaders walking around, they may feel uneasy. Depending on their past leadership oversight experiences, they may perceive leaders are walking around to check up on them and make sure they are doing their job. They may feel they are in trouble for something. This normally is felt by employees that had leaders that practice Fear By Walk Around. The only time they saw a leader is when a person was in trouble of about to get a pink slip!

Be consistent: LBWA has to be done on a consistent basis so employees will feel comfortable seeing their leaders and feel they are being valued by their leaders.

Prepare new staff: Meeting leaders at employee orientation and letting employees know that the leaders walk around or practice rounding will help prepare the employees when a leader shows up in their area.

Connecting is the key: Nothing is a true substitute for building a relationship and a professional friendship between leaders and employee. This connectedness will go a long way toward employee satisfaction, and job performance.

Follow up as needed: Promptly following up on any unanswered questions makes the LBWA experience about the staff. By coming back with the answers they need you show them that the time they spend with you will benefit them as much as you.

Avoid being the “Work Police:” Be high on compliments of low on criticism! If you can, compliment in public and criticize in private. If something happens that is not according to standards or policy be intentional in how you address it. Focusing on mistakes or problems can make you look like the work police and make staff dread – instead of looking forward to – your visits.

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