Tom Peters: The Magic of Managing by Wandering Around

BY C. Lee Smith
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Tom Peters has been writing books and advising CEOs since before many of us were born. His ideas are as trendsetting and important now as they were thirty years ago. When he joined us on our Manage Smarter podcast earlier this year, he reminded us of what business leaders need to do to achieve excellence at their companies.

Peters was one of the early proponents of developing soft skills for managers. When he and co-​author Bob Waterman studied Hewlett-​Packard at its peak, they noticed the head of the company had a specific management style. Instead of staying locked in his office and issuing commands to his staff, he walked the aisles of his company’s offices and the floors where work was being done.

At the time, this form of management was considered radical. It’s also an example of how business was beginning to shift in the U.S. Managers were realizing they had to spend time with people who were actually doing the work. That’s how they’d understand the problems and challenges employees were facing. And, that’s also how managers started to build company culture. Business was no longer just about making sure that work got done quickly and cost-​effectively. The mission for managers was also about making sure work got done in a way that made employees want to do their best.

Peters believes managers should help their team members improve. Whether an employee is with you for one year or ten years, you can prepare them for the future. As Peters says "every leader has a moral responsibility to have the person walk out the door better prepared for the future than they were when they came in.” Helping employees goes beyond  moral responsibility. As we all know, when we work hard to help our employees achieve their goals and become better workers, they’ll pay us back with loyalty and commitment.

If you’re serious about improving your culture and management style, follow Peters’ advice. The next time you arrive at the office and have a list of 50 problems facing you, let them wait. Wander around your office. Engage your employees in conversation. Listen to what they’re telling you and take action.