When I get the time I love to walk up the odd hill and mountain. These are usually in Wales but have been known to tackle Peak District peaks and Lake District highs too. On rare occasions some Scottish summits have also been marked off my ‘to do’ list!
As we all know the weather on our island can vary dramatically and bright sunshine can descend into wild rains as one climbs on one’s way. Many times I have started a climb when due to low cloud, I couldn’t see the summit. This is a bit like life goals, we have them and we know they are there but sometimes we lose sight of them as they seem so distant.
The analogy I want to draw today though has more to do with the opposite effect! Many times I have climbed in the rain, up through the cloud layer to be greeted by sunshine at the peak. The scenery is often stunning and blissfully calm. The only problem is you cannot see anything below. This reminds me of the situation many managers and leaders find themselves in.
They have climbed high in their career and literally have the ‘top floor’ office to match. They are now so far removed from ‘reality’ though, that they have to rely on memory to remember what it was like. They also have junior managers to advise them but it’s often just like ancient Rome, as people hate to be the bearer of bad news so they sugar coat everything instead. Over time those in high office build a picture in their minds that is so far removed from reality it makes it impossible for them to do their jobs effectively.
TV programmes like “Back to the Floor” have shown this to be the case, with many taking part proclaiming afterwards, “I just had no idea”.
So how do senior managers stay abreast with reality? Here are my top tips:
- Build a team of great managers and create an atmosphere of openness and mutual trust
- Avoid altitude sickness by spending regular time with people at all levels of your business or organisation
- Make ‘mystery shopper’ calls in to your own business to hear for yourself what the level of customer service is like, don’t rely on other people to do this for you
- Talk to key clients at all levels to get their view of your organisation
- Flatten out management layers to lessen the chance of ‘Chinese Whispers’, better still deliver all key messages yourself
These simple tips will allow you to remain in touch with reality at ground level. This knowledge will inform your decisions and as a result you will make better ones.
Never discount the value of your people seeing you in the office, it is well documented that ‘visible’ leaders have greater respect than those that hide away in their ivory towers. This is rewarded with greater discretionary effort and employee engagement.
In summary, enjoy the view from the top but don’t get your head stuck in the clouds!