“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
George Bernard Shaw
Whether you move across the room to shake a hand or travel around the globe to partake in local cuisine and share in the culture of a partner, the significance and impact of a firm handshake and face to face interaction cannot be overstated.
In today’s electronic connectivity world, we as leaders grow physically further and further apart from the people we lead and count on to propel our organizations to new heights. The advent of e-mail, webinars, video conferencing, mobile devices and the vast array of social media, create an electronic umbilical connecting us to the virtual world, but can paralyze us from interacting in the physical world. As leaders we must never miss an opportunity to get up, get out, and talk to our teammates face-to-face…lead with your feet.
Cut The Cord – Interact!
Do not mistake interacting with your team with attempts at winning popularity contests or pressing the flesh as though conducting a political campaign. It is about the selfless commitment of time and effort to those who commit themselves to the organization and by extension…to you. Once in the space of your partners, put away your phone (better yet leave it somewhere else), slow your roll and take the time to speak on a topic of importance, give direct and well thought out guidance and most importantly: listen. A technique to take advantage of these forays into the crazy physical world is to always have a pen or pencil and a small note pad to ensure your valuable team inputs don’t get lost in the craziness of the work day. I always remember senior leaders who took the time to ask for my input and made the effort to write it down and follow up. Even if your are blessed with a phenomenal memory, the visual confirmation of an interaction in the form of a simple note, carries weight greater than hundreds of sterile e-mails. As a subtle reminder, a pen and small notebook will conveniently fit in the space previously occupied by your mobile device.
“…a pen and small notebook will conveniently fit in the space previously occupied by your mobile device.”
If the concept of leading with your feet is new, or has not been practiced in your current organization, do not expect instant gratification. As you penetrate the sanctity of your teams work spaces, it is important to realize this leadership style will open you up to further scrutiny and discussion in your absence (as all of us must understand this happens routinely anyway), but persistence and dedication to the people of your organization needs to be the underlying motivator and can yield increased group cohesion and confidence in your leadership. Over time, your presence and engagement will become an opportunity for you and your team to share in discussions about life, family, triumph and tragedy and yes, even some business. Regardless of where your ventures take you, it will be noticed and appreciated as you and the members of the organization form a physical bond that will elevate your capital– because leading with your feet takes time and effort, something those you lead will appreciate and respect.
“…to be a leader of people, not things, we must be out there, among our team.”
In words, leading with your feet is easy, in practice it is much harder than one would think. For those who feel their very life depends on the electronic umbilical that ties them to their desk, it takes concerted effort to unplug, if even for a brief while to begin the new journey to more effective leadership. And for others who feel better behind a monitor than face to face with a human, always remember, that monitors don’t smile back, mobile devices cant hug and to be a leader of people, not things, we must be out there, among our team…leading with our feet.