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You gotta see’em to believe ‘em

A big part of my HR practice has been the coaching of managers, leaders and executives. I believe that that is one of the most important functions that HR plays in any organization. If we, as HR practitioners are modeling the way for our organizations by fostering communication and leading with coaching, than we have set the table for our operations partners to follow suit.

A huge part of what my team(s) and I do is work with managers to establish basic coaching practices and approaches to improving communication with staff. The overarching theme is always one of performance management. At the centre of the coaching that I do is the concept of managerial and leadership “visibility.” That is, in order to have your message(s) heard and received and for your staff to align to your operational and organizational goals, you need to be “seen” by your employees.

Trust word for blogI am not talking just aimlessly wandering around in your department with no clear purpose; I am talking about being seen amongst your staff on a regular basis. Think of it as the next step above management by wandering around. Now, depending on your actual role in your organization the word “regular” may mean different things. If you are a department level manager, regular might mean every day. If you are an executive vice-president with 500+ employees under you, regular might mean once a month or even once a quarter. Regardless, the point is that in order for managers to be leaders, and for leaders to have credibility, they have to be visible to their employees.

The other key element with having visibility in order to maintain credibility is to make sure, as a manager, you are visible during “good times” as well as bad. Meaning, if part of your regular management practice is to touch base, connect with staff, communicate regular business items/updates, etc. then, when tougher messages need to be delivered your staff will respect you for it. Looking at this in reverse, if as a manager you are never seen by your staff and then you are required to deliver a (tougher) message to your staff, it probably won’t be well received as you haven’t established credibility with them. At the very least, if you need to deliver a positive message that would be used to overcome some organizational negativity, it too won’t have the desired effect due to your lack of visibility.

Case in point, I used to work at an organization that was experiencing a shortage in work due to its largest customer shifting its outsourcing philosophy. As you can imagine, the employees were worried about job loss and many begin looking for other jobs. The company had been working hard to replace this customer shift and in fact had another opportunity coming down the pipe that would result in employees not losing their jobs. Managers were asked to communicate this to their staff so as to stem the tide so to speak. As you can imagine, the message was met with much skepticism by the staff of those managers who were never visible to their staff. They had no credibility established so their employees did not believe the message that was being delivered and we continued to experience turnover in their departments.

Bottom line, visibility means credibility and credibility enhances your value as a manager and most importantly as an organizational leader. Your employees don’t think more of you because you are hunkered down in your office hard at work. They will, however, respect you more if they know you are visible and approachable. If you make communicating with your staff on a regular basis a priority, than your messages will be better received (trusted); regardless of whether they are positive or negative. The best of this is that effective communication is at the heart of a strong employee/employer relationship.

What about you? Do you feel that managers and leaders need to be visible in order to be believed? As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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