Tuesday, June 9, 2009

This Summer, Don't Be Camouflaged

I chuckled when I saw the "uniform" satirist Stephen Colbert wore when he went to Iraq recently to entertain the troops. I didn't know Brooks Brothers custom-made camouflage suits. Then I really cracked up when I saw the clip of him getting his hair cut by order of the President: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/31183492#31183492

Camouflage makes for a funny suit for Colbert, but fading into the background is something every leader should avoid this summer. Summer is already a time of vacations and time away from work as it is. The thing to remember this summer is visibility. In our book "Ordinary Greatness," we talk about the importance of leaders being as visible as possible in order to find the greatness that exists everywhere in the company. So instead of staying in the office doing e-mail or spreadsheets, get out and spend time with staff. Here are the benefits:
  1. Builds trust between staff and management

  2. Provides opportunities for the leader to identify and recognize
    ordinary greatness occurring during the course of the workday

  3. Lets staff know that you care about the work that is being done
    and appreciate its importance to achieving organizational goals

  4. Encourages staff to make suggestions and offer opinions to improve
    the organization, creating a stronger sense of ownership

  5. Provides the context for identifying opportunities for improvement
    and understanding the dynamics of decision choices

  6. Helps the leader recognize obstacles or barriers that need to be
    removed to achieve better outcomes

However, the myriad benefits of visibility are often lost on executives. They have given us many excuses for not being visible. Here are some we have heard over the years:

  1. Too busy

  2. Didn't I just do that last month?
  3. I don't know what to say when I am with staff.

  4. They don't want me around anyway.

Entire books can be written to debunk each of those excuses, but if you are interested in improving your visibility, here are some tips:

  1. Commit to just getting started and doing it. It's always scariest right before you get started.

  2. Schedule it. Be sure your schedule is not so overburdened that you miss out on being visible to your staff and customers.

  3. Use your visibility time as an opportunity to over-communicate key messages. Don't be afraid to repeat yourself.

  4. If you are interacting with staff layers down in the organization, don't forget to manage up their leader to them -- be positive. This is what we call a win-win-win-win.

So next time you are tempted to hide out in your office, remember Colbert's camouflage suit. Be sure this is one article of clothing that you never wear. Stand out and get out. Now about that haircut...

Any visibility tips that have worked well for you? How do you stay visible to your customers and staff?

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