In our May 2017 Dealer Tip of the Month, Street Volkswagen General Manager John Luciano reveals how much of his visibility with his team is attributed to his adoption of daily walk around leadership. The workday walk around concept, now synonymous with “an up-close and personal” corporate management style, has roots in the early days of technology giant Hewlett-Packard. John began practicing the art of workplace wandering in the 1970’s. “For me, it started with a guy named Lou Tice that came out of the Pacific Institute and did just a great deal. Lou and some other guys brought up a deal called ‘Management by walking around.'”
What is Walk Around Leadership?
The heart of the management style is pretty simple. It’s randomly wandering through each of your dealership’s departments to check in with employees in their primary work environment throughout the day. The stroll may help you as a manager recharge after being cooped up in an office or a heated meeting with an unsatisfied customer. And while stretching your legs or grabbing a cup of coffee may end up in a short conversation or two with a nearby employee, the exchange is really nothing more than a coincidence.
The management walk around has a very genuine, deliberate purpose. The walk around strengthens the relationships you have with your team outside of heated issues surrounding sales performance and operational issues you might want to address. Some managers view the walkabout to be so important that it ends up on their list of tasks to be completed every day. For John, a 35-year veteran of the car business, the very deliberate tour is time well spent. “I want to make sure my team knows I care. I really want to know them, and I want them to feel like they really know me. I hope they see that they can come to me with whatever problems they are having.”
Identifying Dealership Issues Sooner Than Later
The visits also allow John to be proactive in identifying issues and opens the door for employees to bring up ideas that will help them be successful throughout their day. “[The questions] may seem like a small question, but it is probably a big question to them. It may be keeping them from moving on further through the day because they didn’t understand something – and that means a lot to me.”
Walk around leadership comes rather easy to John because the face-to-face interaction helps him meet his own personal goals. Instead of employees shaping their perception of you from lack of engagement, leaders can shape the reality of who you are, what you stand for, and how they fit into the overall success – simply because they have the opportunity to have valuable exchanges with you. “If you put yourself out there, make yourself visible, ask and answer questions from your team – you’d be surprised at what you can correct and fix, and your team knows you are behind them. That’s how you get buy-in from your employees that will help everyone achieve our ultimate goals.”