Success is a funny thing.
If you’re not careful it takes you further away from the person that got you there in the first place – the customer.
The business grows, you build infrastructure, develop teams and processes. Ultimately, you end up putting a lot of furniture between you and the frontline of the business, where all of the action takes place. Where the customer interactions are.
Of course this is a good thing, it frees you up to think about the long term position whilst trusting those around you to fulfill the day-to-day. But how to stay in touch?
Walk the floor.
Get up out of your seat, at least twice a week and talk to everyone in the business.
Walking the floor isn’t an excuse to interrogate everyone, crush structure and start telling people what to do.
In its simplest form its saying:
“Hello, how are you?”
And at its most complex it’s:
“What’s your biggest challenge at the moment?”
It’s asking an open question and then listening to understand, not to respond.
Hear something important, write it down. if it comes up more than once, bring it up in the next relevant meeting.
As Yvon Chouinard say in his essential book, Let My People Go Surfing:
“In this information age it’s tempting for managers to manage from behind their desks, staring at their computer screens and sending out instructions, instead of managing by walking about and talking to people. The best managers are never at their desks yet can be easily found and approached by everyone reporting to them”.
Walking the floor is a temperature test, and one you can do everyday. It builds personal relationships and trust. It gets you closer to your customer and the pulse of the business.
Get good at it.