September 20, 2016 Getting Out There Regularly: Learning Comes with Connecting
Good leaders get information in many different ways. We learn from reports and executive meetings, from market analysis and consultants, and from our own study. But getting fresh input from people on the front line is the secret sauce. When you’re out there with people doing the real work, you can challenge and validate your ideas, gain new insights and learn in a completely new way.
Connecting with people on a regular basis brings value for everyone. Your people get used to you coming and being curious about their ideas and what they do – so they think about what they can tell you. Later on when new plans are announced, they know they were part of the conversation. Plus, you’re out there ahead of new strategies, seeding change rather than touring later to defend it.
But for this all to work – you have to connect. You have to continually think about how to engage people, encourage them to talk about what’s on their minds and ask questions themselves. When your curiosity is genuine, you learn more and your decisions and plans are more credible. Your people know you come there to listen and learn. Your visits reinforce the company’s value of curiosity and discovery themselves.
The simplest approach is to say, “I really want to know.” You might say, “Let’s grab lunch,” or, “Let’s take a walk. I want to hear your ideas.” When you’re with people doing their jobs, you might say, “How does that work?” “Why do you think that happens?” Whatever feels right. The key is to do it and keep doing it. The learning will come – with connecting.