What exactly is a visible leader? And what does it take to be that?
First, there are two different ways to be a visible leader:
They each have their own function, and are not always as easy to combine.
Adult: You come in and take the room, you like to appear on the intranet / media and “everywhere” in the organization. You have a strong voice and a clear message in relation to how you want the organization to develop and set clear goals along the way. You are also good at celebrating when the goals are reached, and talking about the organization. You are clear, focused and strong.
Present: You are present in the organization, you have a network beyond your own management team and your closest employees. When you enter the room, it is the others in the room who feel seen. You work actively to understand and develop the organization so that they can set goals themselves. You easily correct and support people. You cultivate openness and trust, and are consistent.
If you want to be a visible leader, you need to be aware of both your authority and your presence. The better you are at handling both, the better you will be at leadership.
Secondly: What is required and what should one emphasize, when one is “out there”?
You are required to familiarize yourself with the details. Here is a trap, you are far enough down in the details, it is tempting to start controlling the details, but you should not. You will use your knowledge of details to:
Reward progress. That is, you need to know enough about the details to understand if the people you are visiting are working better now than last time you were there. You also need to know enough about the details to give concrete feedback on what you see that has improved in the right direction
Point out regression and downtime. With your detailed knowledge, you must also be able to see when nothing has happened since the last time. Then you must be able to ask good questions and help to understand what is preventing the organization from getting better.
In addition, you need to know enough about both the overall goals, as well as the requirements of the device you are visiting. Because you as a leader must be able to link the feedback to a bigger picture.
Can you as a leader give a similar feedback the next time you are out of the office and out where it happens, then you are well on your way to becoming a good visible leader:
I’m impressed with the progress, [details], this is something we need to achieve our goals [explain the company’s goals, or the goals of your area of responsibility in a relevant way], and then we need their contribution to achieve [detailed goals for it the device you are visiting]. Good job, keep it up. How do you envision the next level?
I see that we are starting to lag behind [details]. We need their contribution to achieve our goals [explain the company’s goals or the goals of your area of responsibility in a relevant way]. We really need their contribution, ie [detailed goals for the device you are visiting]. I would like to understand why [start with open questions, but follow up. The more you can follow up with detailed questions, the better it is]. I would love to come back to hear more about how you are going to move forward and how I can help.
PS: There is nothing wrong with reading aloud and practicing in front of the mirror!
Third: Remember that your job is not finished after you have been “out there”, now you have to develop people
You need to make sure that you provide the support and assistance to the team that you have observed they need. If you are the closest leader, it is through direct actions. If you are the “second closest” leader (or further away), you must work through the line! You then spend time with the leaders who report to you, so that they understand what you expect from them, and make sure that they follow this up further. How to build your entire organization.
Then just look forward to the next time you are out on the floor to see if you have helped keep a well-functioning team going, or perhaps helped start a stagnant team.
PS: In “lean language” the article can be condensed into 3 concepts: Go-to-gemba, Plan-Do-Check-Act and Coaching.