Anyone who is serious about his or her role in the risk management process can do one thing to strengthen skills. Take a lesson from the old management school and practice “management by walking around” (MBWA). This style works well for leaders who, like those who administer risk or safety, must be actively involved in the day-to-day management of an organization. Try MBWA for thirty days, and I guarantee, you will never go back to managing solely from your desk.
Here are ten tips for making MBWA work for you.
- Be yourself. MBWA works well if you are a natural communicator, but even if wandering through the workplace seems difficult and forced at first, keep plugging away. Soon, people will get used to seeing you and not only look forward to your visits, but provide you with useful insights that you might otherwise never recognize.
- Go it alone. Don’t drag along an entourage, just suit up and go. Nothing drags down communication like a crowd.
- Don’t just visit your direct reports. MBWA only works if you are committed to spending time with all levels of your organization. I contend that it is the line supervisors and their key employees who truly drive an organization, and where you can receive some of your biggest safety tips.
- Get to know employees’ names, how long they’ve worked for the company, and a little about them. Share some laughter. Nothing brings people together better than humor.
- Use this opportunity to “catch an employee doing something right.” Praise employees when you notice they are using proper safety equipment or taking special care in their work.
- If you note a problem, don’t correct the employee directly. Determine who supervises the employee and discuss your concerns with him or her. Conversely, some employees will take this opportunity to complain about their supervisors, so ask employees to discuss the matter with their supervisor. If you feel that you should take action, be sure to discuss the matter with the supervisor before you act.
- Go along for the ride. When I was a fledgling city risk manager and faced with frequent sewer claims, one of the first things I did was spend a cold, snowy morning on a city sewer truck. I came to know our sanitation workers by name and understood how hard they worked. That simple step helped me to earn their respect and they always went over and above when citizens had problems.
- If you need help with a problem, talk to your employees, who can offer insight and experience. But don’t expect line employees to come to you; they risk ridicule from their coworkers and suspicion from their supervisors. You must approach them and initiate the conversation. Ask a pointed question, or observe the process and ask the employee to explain what he or she is doing and even how the process might be improved.
- Use the Pareto Rule, one of the golden rules of management: Listen 80 percent of the time and talk 20 percent. You will be surprised by what you will learn.
- Vary the times that you stroll. Hit at shift change occasionally to get more bang for your walking buck.
In today’s work environment, managers spend most of their days at a computer, crunching numbers and answering e-mails. Abandoning your office weekly to get to know your employees will pay great dividends.