One day I was having a conversation with Kevin, one of people that works for me. Kevin is an excellent employee who is doing very well, and I just had taken a minute to tell him he had done a good job on something. I feel it's very important to let people know when they have done something good (even more important than catching them doing wrong things).
Kevin thanked me and turned back to setting up a computer. I paused, then asked him if he'd fixed Lori's system yet. Kevin looked a little shocked - he hadn't told anyone about Lori's system. He just looked at me and asked how I knew so much. I just smiled and walked away.
It got me to thinking, though, about importance of boss knowing everything that's going on in immediate environment. This is not only important, it is critical for long range survival in office.
How so? Well, job of a boss is to keep his team producing as optimally as possible. It's very simple and this basic rule does not change regardless of rank of boss (and actually all employees for that matter). The job of everyone in a company is to produce as much as possible.
The boss must act quickly when anything happens to reduce effectiveness of his team. He must be fast to correct problems and misunderstandings, and he must quickly give out praise when appropriate.
The only way he can do this is by knowing what is going on at all times. Personally, I am a huge fan of "management by walking around" technique. When used properly, it's very effective. It's a very simple procedure. Just get up from your chair once in a while and walk around. Look over people's shoulders, see what they are working on and praise them briefly if you catch them doing something right.
There's more to it than that, however. You have to wander around more than just your own people. You need to talk to other people as well. Call up your customers (whomever your group performs services for) and find out how they feel and what's on their mind as regards your people.
You should make these calls often, at least several times a week. Just pick some people whom your group serves and either go talk to them personally or talk to them on phone (email is NOT a good way to gather this information as you need to have a dialog and see reactions). Remember, these are not intended to be investigations - you are simply keeping in touch and gently probing for any information that's relevant.
So how did I know about Lori's system? Simple, I had talked to Annette earlier in day. Annette mentioned that Lori might be unhappy, so I wandered over to Lori's desk and just started talking. Before long, Lori mentioned that her system had not been delivered as promised. She said that Kevin was working on it and she did not know status.