John O’Connor

Remember how it was when you were working your way up through the ranks?

Remember how you kept reminding yourself that someday you’d be in charge, and man, were things gonna change for the better. And now, after years of spilling blood, sweat and maybe a few tears, you’re finally in a position to get those levers moving in the right direction.

But the view is a lot different once you get near the top, isn’t it? Sure, you’ve been able to improve some things. But maybe not as many as you’d hoped. Who would have guessed such a seemingly simple business could have so many moving parts? Or constant crises? Or serve up a new batch of headaches, every single day?

And what’s become of your routine? In early, out late, and so many mind-numbing meetings in between. You love the work. But more and more of it seems to be spent at a keyboard.

And do you know what also might be happening while you are hammering away at spreadsheets, emails and other matters that just can’t wait? You may be slowly, but surely, becoming less connected.

Sure, you know the C-suite people pretty well. And the board members, if you have a board. But what about the worker bees who do the actual heavy lifting? When’s the last time you had more than a how-‘ya-doing conversation with somebody in the kitchen? Or one of the people who toils in the memory care unit? Or that guy who drives the van – what was his name again?

If you are familiar with these people, know some of their family members and can bring up details about their personal lives when you chat with them, good for you. If not, then please allow me to offer a bit of helpful advice:

Force yourself to stand up, clear out of your office and walk around. Talk to the people doing the things that are easy to overlook. Ask them what they don’t like about their jobs, or better yet, how they could do them even better. Then be prepared for an epiphany or two.

This simple innovation is hardly a revelation. Tom Peters, a management guru, helped popularize the acronym MBWA, short for Management By Walking Around. And a slew of studies show this approach actually can increase productivity. There are several reasons for its counterintuitive benefit. Perhaps the most obvious is that it sort of forces you to get close to the action that matters.

So pry that mouse loose from your fingers and take a hike. Believe me, everything on the screen will still be there when you get back.

What might be different when you return though is your energy level, and perhaps your connection to the business. And you just might discover a new way to make things better.

John O’Connor is editorial director of McKnight’s Senior Living. Email him at [email protected].