Judgement comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgement. We live and learn…
… as BoJo is finding out.
How accessible should the boss, be? My answer… very.
Good bosses are deliberately accessible, they structure their time to include face-to-face encounters and they look for opportunities to leave the office, get-out-and-tune-in.
Bosses can’t change the culture of an organisation but they can change the climate and that starts with being seen and up-for-a-chat.
I wonder how many NHS CEOs give their mobile phone number to all their staff? Why not? Isn’t it more important to hear from a nurse on the front-line, than it is from the chief nurse, who may not have been in that clinic for a week… or two… or more.
How many times when a new, bright-n-shiny boss turns up, giving their ‘address-the-troops’ speech, or more likely an email, that they claim to have ‘an open door policy’…. later you find you have to make an appointment with a secretary and give a reason for the meeting.
I used to hold my office-door open with a life-size china dog. If the door was open, anyone could wander in. If the door was closed, respect my privacy and come back later.
It took an un-expecting NHS a while to get the hang of it but it worked!
Being visible. One CEO I know, makes a point of travelling to work on the same bus a lot of his people use. One morning a porter sat next to him and came up with an idea to make clinics work better. They did it, it worked… just the ticket.
There’s a difference between being accessible and approachable. It is not the altitude you are at in the organisation, it’s the attitude you take with you.
Accessibility starts with visibility.
I tell bosses to arrive early and vary the route to their office, in the morning. On the way, make a point of saying to five people; ‘Hello, I’m Jane Smith, I’m the CEO, I’ve not sure we’ve met. I’m on my way to the office. (Then ask the magic question) What do you think should be at the top of my to-do-list, today?’
You’ll get a mixed response from; ‘dunno…’, through to a shopping list of fixes and nuggets of new ideas and changes… and you’ll start some good gossip.
One of the few studies around organisational dynamics and ‘gossip’ was carried out by Anders Vidners… I wrote about him, here.
He showed us that in large organisations one person is likely to have a ‘meaningful dialogue’ with 15 other people during the course of an ordinary working day… that’s how gossip spreads, 15x15x15.
Do the maths and spread some good gossip!
Talk to five people, on the way to your desk, do it every day and soon you’ll have a reputation for being visible.
Ask the magic question and get a reputation for being accessible.
Listen to the answer and you’ll be seen as someone who understands the issues.
Act on the answer and report back and you’ll stop being the boss and become a leader.
Being visible, being accessible brings risks but we know; leaders are visible, take risks, are agile, change their minds and focus on people, their needs and problems.
That’s why, if I was BoJo and the nation was desperate to get hands on ventilators, in a national emergency, I'd have fixed the Dyson-people, non-dom tax issue... so his people could fly back and make ventilators.
It's a problem which blights many global organisations and is over-due a rethink, if we are going to build-back-better.
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