Have you ever had the privilege of working for a Superhero boss? One of those amazing to be around 5 in 1 hero combos of Deadpool, Kickass, Wolverine, Superman, and Wonder Woman? I remember such a boss. At the age of 35 he had left his position as MD of a listed organisation and struck out on his own – to compete against his previous masters.
Which was pretty much like Wolverine giving X-Men the middle finger and joining up with the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Well, as far as his previous masters were concerned.
His passion was printing (think boxes for laundry detergent) and that process was aided by a fine white powder that prevented inks transferring between surfaces. A powder that seemed to have a mind of its own. On the first day in his new venture, our hero’s factory resembled a Pablo Escobar blizzard. Now, I’m willing to bet damn fine chocolate brownies that many of the bosses I have worked with would have sent out a memo or barked orders at underlings, along the lines of: tidy up the factory… health and safety… ship shape… cleanliness and godliness… what would your mother think?… And continued to do so on a monthly basis.
Not our hero – on his first day at the helm he picked up a broom and started sweeping the floor. Everyone stared at him horrified – like Tories eyeballing 2017 election results. Then magically brooms appeared in hands and sweeping began in earnest. Several days later (there were dunes of dust to clear) the factory sparkled and never again did white powder sully the arena.
Why was our hero’s clean campaign so successful?
He never ordered or even asked. He showed. He showed he had personal humility. He showed people what was important. And he showed his face at the ‘coal face’. Constantly. Every day he would take a tour of the factory, often toting a broom which was his symbol for cleanliness. He would stop and talk to cleaners and machine minders. Good old IBWA (Inspiring By Wandering Around).
In a short space of time he had transformed his staff from grumpies to glad-iators and that business from flat-line to flourishing. And had charmed plenty of his former masters’ customers to his camp.
James Kerr, in writing about the All Black rugby team, describes how some of the biggest names in world rugby (think Richie McCaw and Dan Carter) would ‘sweep the sheds’ because the All Blacks believe it's impossible to achieve stratospheric success without having your feet planted firmly on the ground.
Stratospheric success that is – not common or garden type success.
Tom Peters at a recent Thinkers50 event in London (reported in Forbes) mentioned that even after describing it back in 1982 in In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America's Best-Run Companies, not many bosses had taken up and maintained the practice of MBWA (Managing By Wandering Around).
Maybe because the concept of MBWA wasn’t really that inspiring to bosses? And it’s difficult to pronounce? But maybe also because it is not on any managerial Key Performance Indicator I have ever seen. Just imagine a KPI of ‘wear out a pair of shoes very three months’ or ‘9,000 steps every day during office hours’ or ‘an hour’s chinwag with your team every day’. And so, maybe because there is no practical measure, it is that bosses shun actually engaging with employees and achieving stratospheric success?
So, to Up your Employee Experience and Charm Customers, try a daily dose of IBWA (Inspiring By Wandering Around - pronounced eeh – bwah). And take your first deliberate step now.
(Photograph found on http://www.esquire.co.uk).