As a leader, one of your most valuable tools is your physical presence. Being seen by your team is much more powerful than you might think.
One of your biggest decisions each day is how much of yourself you will share with your team, your customers, your partners and the community. In a strange paradox, you actually need to share more as you become more successful but you gain the ability to share less. Therein lies the tension.
When you have a measure of success in your career you generally earn more freedom in your schedule. When you have more freedom in your schedule you have the daily choice of how to spend your time. You will also find that you have the ability to either share yourself with people or become isolated.
I can choose to spend the morning in a meeting room, have some lunch and then spend the afternoon at my desk. Perhaps I will interact with three to five people. Or I can take short breaks and walk around, stop at several desks and ask people how they are doing, hang out by the coffee machine a bit and see 20-30 people in a day. Three people or thirty people – that’s a ten-fold difference. My daily habits in this area set the tone over the long haul.
Being visible puts people at ease. It lets them know you are engaged and working alongside of them. You are in it together and they see it. One hundred emails cannot add up to one short visit, a few questions about how people are doing and a smile.
I find that the best time to get up and walk around is when I do not feel like it. When I am too busy or just not feeling great, I can isolate myself. That is the time to get up and go see people. It helps them and it helps me. It reminds me that we are on a larger mission than whatever item I am hung up on that day. I get to hear about people's families, their personal activities and see some photos of their pets – it’s Facebook in 3D.
People know that your time is valuable. That is why they love to see you; it tells them that they are important because you are spending your most valuable resource – your time – on them. You will learn a lot about your customers and your company by walking around. You will be reminded that your company is about people, real people with real lives, real ups and downs. Share yourself. It is a key to leading.