Managing from the front lines…or the hotcake grill

Looking at the inaugural post from “Manage by Walking Around” reminded me of one of the earliest pieces of management advice I received — open the door, get out of the office, and get up on the front lines!

In the restaurant business, doing paperwork, P&L planning, inventory, etc. often became an excuse to hide in the back. A senior McDonald’s executive gave me a very simple way to do so — make the hotcake grill your “forward office.” He explained that just being there was effective in so many ways: you could easily pitch in when needed, your presence would deter or short-circuit any temptations, and the crew would see you were “with them” and not off in your own world. It also showed what you thought was most important — the store operations. Furthermore, I found I heard and saw things — for good and for ill — that let me know the pulse of my store.

While the on-going physical presence won’t work for in my virtual team, some of the effects can be replicated . For example, I just sat in on an e-learning with a team member and we took the class together. I’ve struggled with recommending e-learning, especially for high-touch topics like communications and leadership. It was one day, but it gave me a chance to see how my colleague thought through issues, which I had a chance to share my experiences, mistakes, learnings, etc.

7 Responses

  1. “Management By Walking About” is excellent advice…It is also a fundamental principle for “deckplate leadership” in the Navy. It’s all too easy to get caught behind the computer and forgetting the importance of showing your face and walking through the fields every now and again…Plus, it’s easier to give bad news through e-mail. haha

    Thanks for the post!


  2. Love the metaphor, though it is a just a bit than that for you and your sailors.

    There is nothing like face-to-face — I manage a virtual global team and we need to get together regularly. My take is that we short circuit too many evolutionary adaptations when using e-mail, con calls, etc.

    For example. I rely on seeing or sensing a negative reaction to one of my “brainstorms.” Lord knows that I’m “often wrong, but never in doubt.” When all I hear is “yup” on the line I can’t tell when my folks think I’m nuts or don’t understand. Technology can easily become a buffer, mask, cushion, muffler, etc. between me and my team.

    Thanks for your comment and service…

  3. That’s an excellent point too! Actually, I’ve never really thought of it in that way. Or at least not often enough…

    I was just reminded of when I was watching an interview with Barak Obama on the Oprah Winfrey show a while back–gotta love TIVO–and he said that for a little bit he found that he fell into this trap where he found that he was representing Washington to his constituents instead of representing his constituents to Washington, and he vowed that he wouldn’t let that happen again.

    So, he made a policy for him and his staff that he would not travel in private jets with any celebrities or lobbyists (I believe this is his version of getting stuck behind the computer). So, instead of flying to Africa with Oprah in her private jet he went first class on a commercial flight.

    Well, on this flight he started to have a conversation with a man in economy class about health care and jobs and what not, and Obama said that the man gave him a very real picture of what life was like for him and what his concerns were as an average citizen.

    I’m not trying to plug him or anything, but your reply just made me remember what he said, and had he not decided to get away from his proverbial desk and manage by walking around then he would never have gotten the straight talk from the people actually doing the job.

    Thanks for the addition to your blogroll. You’ve got a great blog here and I’ve added you to mine as well. I’m looking foward to learning more from you.


  4. […] by a post entitled “Managing from the front lines…or the hotcake grill” on Crossderry Blog, BUT in trying to define Deckplate Leadership I’ve decided to talk about Tom […]

  5. […] “Managing from the front lines…or the hotcake grill”, the author of Crossderry Blog talks about the trap that leaders can fall into where you find […]

  6. Management by Walking Around can be done without actually walking around. The principles are opening up closed channels of communications. This works with employees or partners and customers. You might also be amused by a subsequent post

  7. Yay! Interesting…

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