Last month, while I was touring the Book Exhibit America (BEA) in New York City, I was quickly walking down one of the dozens of aisles by one of the hundreds of booths when something caught my eye; not sure what. I stopped, looked more closely, asked a couple of questions, and started visiting with the booth representative. I soon found out that another visitor in the booth was a former Democratic state senator in California. He has just recently moved to New York. After we talked for a while, I showed him a copy of my newest book, 15 Leadership Principles and Ronald Reagan – Use Them to Change Your World. He said, “Ronald Reagan campaigned against me in my original campaign for my state senate seat. I won the seat in spite of that. The day after I was sworn in, the then Governor Reagan called and asked if I could come over to his office. We spent three hours visiting together.” The former senator went on to say, “Of course, I liked him, I always liked him. I represented the area of the state that his ranch was in. He always referred to me as ‘his senator’.” He continued, “The governor of California shouldn’t spend three hours with a state senator.” That, of course, is where I strongly disagree. Ronald Reagan knew what his first priorities were. He instinctively understood the 20/80 principle. He knew the importance of concentrating on the vital few, and part of the vital few for the governor was building relationships with the legislators he’d be working with, especially those from the other side of the aisle.
My experience with CEO’s, plant managers, and many department heads is that they don’t understand what the “vital few” truly is for them, and they don’t spend enough time on the floor, they don’t spend enough time visiting job sites. They don’t make building relationships meaningfully or connecting with the team a priority. Without exception, this is one of the most persistent requests we hear from the floor; “I wish they would come out to see what we are really doing down here, connect with us, see our work.”
How about you? How much of your time do you spend building relationships, connecting with the frontline? Take out your Day Timer or palm pilot and schedule an appointment with yourself to be on the floor with your frontline. Managing by wandering around is important enough that it has earned a title and rare enough that books are written about it. For the next 30 days keep track of how much time you spend building relationships with your frontline associates, then break your own record.
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