Article -> True Leaders Must "Walk the Floor"
Date Added: December 2006
All leaders should understand the importance of maintaining an effective level of communication with employees. They must acknowledge that internal communication is a tool that keeps employees connected to each other and to the overall organizational vision. What many leaders may not know is that most employees prefer direct communication with a leader versus obtaining information via other channels. The most effective channel for employees is the informal workplace “walk-around” - having their leader come to their desk and talk about work.¹
It is difficult to quantify the value of the “walk-around” communication method. When done correctly, it can help create a connection between employees and leaders that will directly affect the success and productivity of the organization. By speaking directly to employees, leaders can learn from them, helping them make more informed decisions to benefit the organization.
Leaders need to be visible to create a positive relationship with employees, not just “appear” when something has gone wrong or there is an issue to address. However, many leaders find the “walk-around” method hard to do. The informal structure of this form of communication is not conducive to what leaders are accustomed. Leaders may typically employ the support of notes, visual aids and electronics to assist with presentations and communication.
The “walk-around” method is a learned skill that leaders should develop to be effective. The improvement in communication creates a better professional atmosphere for employees and also helps improve the organization’s bottom line. Companies with the highest levels of effective communication experienced a 26% total return to shareholders compared to a 15% return for companies that communicate least effectively.² Providing alignment throughout an organization - top-down and bottom-up - creates an effective internal branding strategy.
Once implemented, the process helps leaders learn and develop the necessary skills to communicate effectively. These skills include: making eye contact, listening attentively, being honest and asking questions. Being out of the office and talking to employees opens lines of communication between leaders and employees. It also helps leaders gain a certain amount of understanding and appreciation for work employees do.
The rewards of getting to know employees are limitless at all levels of leadership. Employees begin to better understand the leaders’ goals, while the leaders are bound to gain insight and helpful information that can help improve their leadership ability. The key to success is going directly to you people - not waiting for them to come to you.
¹ Dulye, Linda. “Get Out of Your Office.” HR Magazine. July 2006.
² Watson, Wyatt. “Connecting Organizational Communication to Financial Performance-2003/2004 Communication ROI Study.”