Presence should be a top priority for all managers. Instead of considering when you have time to step out of the office, you should not be sitting there at all. A modern manager should not have his own office. He or she should naturally be present in the company – a central figure. A player who involves and gets involved.
Visible leadership is a never-ending debate, a must for a good leader. But what is visible leadership? Is it visible leadership to devote half an hour in the calendar every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon to take a walk around the office to show the flag, shake hands with employees and have a chat with them? Is it visible leadership to schedule status meetings every Friday? Is it visible leadership to invite to the annual performance meeting? Is it visible leadership to be part of the Friday bar and the Christmas party? It might be, but in my mind, “desk management” has taken so much over, that there is a need to think differently when talking about visible leadership.
It is not enough to schedule to be visible and then go back into the office again and continue working. A leader’s job is to achieve results through others, but the manager should also get his hands in the dirt. Therefore, a leader must be able to do more than motivate, delegate and communicate. It is about creating a sense of community and to be authentic. To be willing to listen and learn, show weakness as well as strength, demonstrate knowledge and ignorance, praise, recognize, set clear expectations, and finally achieve results – together.
Visibility is also about networking in the enterprise, and to be present in the current situation. And it takes practice, if it does not come natural. You can practice by always saying yes when an employee needs coaching or to reach out when you need input in a difficult case. To show commitment and interest in everyday life, and not only when it is in the calendar.
It is obviously more difficult the larger and more global the enterprise, but nevertheless important. You must remember that presence is many things. It need not only to be physical presence. Social media and instant messaging can be a complement to physical presence. And to grab the phone still works. I spend more than 100 travel days a year to create and maintain network with employees in all the countries where Columbus is represented. It gives me a close touch with what’s happening in the field. The more often I meet employees, the better insight I get into the challenges they face in their daily work, and what happens with our customers. At the same time, it becomes more natural for them to include me in their daily work. It takes time, but it is an investment with high returns.
Thomas Honoré is Chief Executive officer and President of Columbus.