By Attila Ovari
- Are you a leader that is out in front?
- Do you have an open door policy?
- Do you know what your staff are thinking?
As a subunit commander in the Australian Army Reserve I have been taught to lead from the front. “Push forward and see what is really happening on the front line.” The greatest military leaders would push forward regularly and see what was really happening. Meanwhile some of the greatest military disasters occurred due to commanders making decisions and plans from the rear, without a good situation awareness of what is really happening in the front line.
Does this apply in the civilian workplace? I say YES… I am amazed at the number of managers, senior managers and executives that do not “talk to the troops”. Yes, I believe in the chain of command and that direction and taskings comes through that chain, but you need to develop situational awareness from the front line staff. There are a number of ways to achieve this. Some that I employ are:
- Saying hello to staff on arrival in the morning and make a habit to talk with staff in the building throughout the day. These discussions should occur at times without an agenda.
- At my Army Squadron I have directed that once a month we hold a BBQ at the end of the parade night that all personnel are to attend. This creates an informal opportunity for all ranks to mix and talk. This has contributed to a large break down of barriers in communication within the Squadron.
- Another method of pushing forward is to visit your staff in their workplaces. Visit all the sites that you are responsible for on a regular basis. Doing this regularly without an agenda builds trust and relationships with all the staff.
A good example of why pushing forward works was when I was responsible for a number of Children Services, which were located in over ten locations. On one of my visits I was talking to one of the educators which had nominated for some upcoming training. As far as I was aware the training was all organised and the staff that had nominated had all been informed. I found out that day, that this was not the case. The situation was easy fixed at that point, however if left longer, it would have been a bigger issue.
Another benefit of pushing forward aside from listening to the staff, their concerns and victories, is that you can share your vision. You need to be careful how you do this as you do not want to be seen as pushing forward just to sell your idea. However, when listening to your staff and answering questions the opportunity will come up to share your vision….
- When is the last time you had a conversation with a staff member without an agenda in mind?
- Have you served your client directly as you stand side by side with your front line staff?
- Do your staff see you as approachable (note: this is about what your staff think, not what you think)?