"As remote workers return to the office, there's an old management style I want you to consider. It's called 'management by wandering around'. The style was part of the Hewlett Packard culture back in the 1970s, and it was the best practice featured in the best selling book called 'In Search of Excellence'. So yes, this is 50-years old, but it works.
'Management by wandering around' is just what it sounds like. You leave your desk and stroll about the workplace. You're not trying to get your 10,000 steps in, but it helps. You're promoting informal, impromptu and in-person interactions. The kind you can't have with remote workers.
But here's the problem. For the last couple of years, you've been tied to your desk. You've relied on email and messaging and meeting apps for interaction, and you're in a routine, so you got to break those habits.
The big thing your office has over remote work is in-person social contact, and we're social animals. You want to give people more of what they can't get at home. You don't want to hover over people, and you don't want to be seen as snooping around. You want to be purposeful with your walk about's.
Whenever you have news or updates, a question to ask, an idea to share, or a pat on the back to give, take a walk and do it live. The more you can personalize your interactions, the better.
When you wander in the morning, ask people how their day looks. When you wander in the afternoon, ask how their day went. When you do, you'll trigger timely coaching discussions.
You want to listen with your eyes, read the body language, look for visual cues. Don't be nosy, but be observant. This is a good time to encourage feedback, brainstorm problems and encourage new ideas.
It's also a great time to recognize people and express your gratitude. In-person recognition is infinitely more powerful than email.
Remember, if you're in a bad mood, don't lock yourself in the office. A stroll through the office focused on your people with positive intent is going to lift your mood.
The more people see you, the better. You're going to learn more. They're going to learn more. There won't be as many surprises, and people will engage more with you and more with each other.
You've got to reignite your office environment, and 'managing by wandering around' is the best way to do it."
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