“Spend a day in the life of ...” Well, okay, maybe an hour with Jane would suffice, depending upon her job role. As Mary T. Lathrap put it in her 1865 poem Judge Softly, “Before you judge a man, walk a mile in their moccasins.” It is so easy to forget your humble beginnings or even appreciate what a “day in the life” is for those who serve in various roles. If it’s been a while since you worked in her department or if you have never walked in her shoes, you’ll gain great insight by doing so. Schedule time on your calendar to “walk alongside” these valuable jobholders so that you can appreciate what their day-to-day work life is really like. While this may make Jane a bit self-conscious, she’ll ultimately appreciate the intentionality you put into “understanding her world.” Perhaps invite her to select the time so you can see her at her busiest or, in her perspective, the best part of her day. You’ll be amazed at what you’ll learn about how your employees interact, what processes are in need of improvement, what inefficiencies still exist even though you have resources, who on the team might need a “timeout” to avoid burnout, where shrinkage could be avoided, where time could be maximized, and who has potential and skill sets you were unaware of because they’ve been hiding them under a bushel basket in their cubicle!
Did you know that those in leadership roles at Disney not only do “leader walks” (where they immerse themselves with their team and get to know them on a more personal level), some actually take it a step further and occasionally work a front-line shift alongside their teams in full costume. If that isn’t a prime example of a leader who cares, then I don’t know what is!
According to one report from PwC, some workers feel less like they have the opportunity to do what they do best at work and they’re less likely to feel that their opinion matters. It is important that employees of all levels and roles not only know and understand the company’s mission, but are actively doing their part to support it. When employees feel like they aren’t being heard or that the work they do doesn’t matter, it creates an “us versus them” mentality. This is a slippery slope that can lead to decreased productivity, subpar performance, and higher levels of attrition.
Take the time to walk a day (ok, so an hour might be more realistic) in your employees’ shoes. Let them take the lead and show you exactly what it is they are doing day in and day out and how it impacts the company. Taking the time to get a first-hand look into their daily lives can be eye-opening. Use it as an opportunity to intentionally listen, which will make them feel more connected and in the loop. It also helps you better understand their world and build a bond with your team. Who knows, you might find your all-star manager-in-training that you might have overlooked otherwise.
This week, I challenge you to create a calendar or schedule of when you will “walk a day in the life” of each of your employees. If you have a large team, spread it out over a few months or weeks so you don’t neglect your own tasks, duties, and responsibilities. If you feel so inclined, jot down one unexpected thing you learned while shadowing each employee.
FUN FACT: The chairman and CEO of Loews Hotel spent a week working the front desk and carrying luggage for the reality show Down the Ladder. Jon Tisch’s eye-opening experience led to some significant changes in policy for the multimillion-dollar luxury hotel chain.