Talking Point: The Disney Institute Blog

Follow the Leader: Management By Walking Around

April 15, 2014 by Jeff James, Vice President & General Manager, Disney Institute

Often times, organizations find themselves in the following predicament. A mission is in place and desired behaviors have been identified and agreed upon, yet a disconnect remains between the leadership and staff. How can an organization align its efforts?

The best place to look to is leadership. However complete your business model may be, your efforts will collapse if managers do not exhibit and reinforce the right behaviors. Have you ever been in a situation when your manager asked you to change a set of behaviors, but he or she also exhibits this very behavior? Think about how this inconsistency can affect a team and your organizational culture.

Leaders have a crucial role in the workplace. Beyond managing the tasks essential to running an organization smoothly, leaders act as role models for employees and customers.

Below are three ways your organization can develop a culture that encourages leadership excellence:

  • Hire for Behaviors. A critical phase in aligning leadership with organizational culture begins during the selection process. It is essential to test for behaviors in addition to skills when looking to hire new talent. If new leaders already exhibit the desired behaviors of your organization, they will most likely become a good cultural fit. And, these leaders will naturally become role models for other team members.
  • Reinforce Desired Behaviors. Leaders must have opportunities to spontaneously reinforce employees’ actions that exemplify the organization’s mission and purpose. Consider recognition programs that regularly reward team members when they go above and beyond what is expected. Recognition programs liked this must be operationalized and embedded in a leader’s daily routine so as not to appear as a “gimmick” and only used to increase short-term productivity.
  • Walk In your Employees’ Shoes. In order to become immersed with your team, it is important that leaders do not become separated from their front line. “Management by wandering around” the work environment allows leaders to both model behaviors and remain engaged with the people and processes at the heart of an organization. One example of how Disney leaders walk in the shoes of their direct reports is through “in-costume” experiences. Disney leaders regularly opt to work a front-line shift with their teams in a theme park, resort or other operating area. Through this opportunity, leaders can truly experience a day in the shoes of their direct reports and reconnect with the Guest experience.

If you would like to learn more about a leaders role in modeling values and sustaining success through measuring values alignment, check out our Disneys Approach to Leadership Excellence professional development training course. 

How does your organization encourage exemplary leadership?


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Posted in Leadership Excellence | Tagged Leadership, Leadership Excellence, Leadership Skills, Leadership Training, Jeff James

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