Dani Robbins

Staff Management

In Leadership, Organizational Development on July 11, 2012 at 7:56 am
When I was in grad school I learned of a leadership style called “Management by Walking Around” which really resonated with me. The basic premise is that staff may talk to you about things in their space or on the fly that they wouldn’t necessary come to your office to discuss.
I loved it! When I became an Executive Director I made sure I walked around and checked in with my team at least once a day.  I asked: “How’s it going?” “What’s going on?” “Need anything?”
Great! Except that it wasn’t. Balls got dropped; decisions never got made, or if they did, never got implemented – and the truth is, I never got the impression that anyone ever actually talked to me about things that they wouldn’t have come to my office to discuss. 
The other big revelation about Managing by Walking Around is this: it doesn’t work. Walking around has its place, as long as we’re all clear that it’s not actually leadership, or even management. Managing on the fly isn’t managing at all; it’s really just walking around, checking in, seeing and being seen. None of which is irrelevant, but neither is it leadership.
The best way I know to manage staff is to set expectations, clarify the expectations, as necessary and then support staff to meet their expectations. The best way I know to do that is to sit down to talk with them. 
I recommend my clients meet with their team’s individually on a regularly scheduled basis, once a month at a minimum, preferably once a week or every other week.  (I also recommend Board Chairs sit down with their nonprofit’s CEO on a similar schedule.)
What to discuss?  I like to have my team send me, by noon the day before our meeting,  a written list of:
1.       things they’re working on;
2.       things they need permission for; and
3.       things they just want me to know about
I then add a list of things I want to discuss and send it back the same day.  Then, I print the list for myself and I take notes on it at the meeting.   After the meeting I throw my notes in a file with the employee’s name on it- and voila! – I now have documentation of who agreed to do what by when and an entire year of meeting notes for when I need to do their evaluation.  It’s brilliant …… though I can’t take any credit for it; I learned it from a past board member.
Weekly meetings, coupled with expectation setting, valid and accurate job descriptions, performance reviews and professional development plans can transform your management style as well as the way staff work and work together – and that can transform your organization.
Try and it and let me know what you think!

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