Are you my monster? Negative perceptions created of leaders who lack visibility with the people.
Many scholars discuss visibility from the perspective of an employee making themselves more visible to executives within an organisation with the ambition of climbing the corporate ladder. However, this same principle can work in reverse and be applied to leaders in relation to their visibility to their employees. Unbeknown to the leader (or leaders) of a company there may be a visibility problem within the organisation. Unfortunately a visibility problem can take on a life form of its own and turn into a large obstacle to navigate around, affecting all aspects of an environment.
The consequence of not being a visible leader is that employees do not have the opportunity to get to know their leader. It can create a breeding ground for employees’ thoughts, ideas, gossip and snippets of uninformed information, to be boiled together to create a monster of a perception!
Employees creating a negative perception of the CEO - because they never see the CEO.
Poor visibility from leaders within an organisation doesn’t just lead to a bad perception, it is connected to all other aspects of being a productive leader within an organisation. Negative perceptions can affect employee morale, performance, behaviour, trust and communication within an organisation.
One means by which negative perceptions are created are what employees perceive their leader(s) to be acting or not acting upon. For example; if an employee only sees the CEO in an office with a senior staff member with the door closed, the employee’s natural perception of the CEO will be a negative one. This creates the opportunity for the human mind to fill in the gaps. Generally, the gaps will not be filled with positive aspects. Thoughts like, job security and punishment will be at the forefront.
This issue is of significant importance as a leader represents the pinnacle of trust within an organisation. Trust can be set up in two ways: given immediately or developed over time. Leaders who have low visibility within an organisation create few opportunities for employees to establish that trust.
The management community are well aware of a technique called Management by Wondering About (MBWA). What if this is not possible? There may be physical or practical limitations for leaders of large global organisations to implement MBWA. An alternative method is to leverage off information technology. I describe it as Virtual Management by Wondering About or VMBWA. VMBWA would leverage off technologies such as in-house IM chat, video posts, blogs, forums, in-house social networks, email and many others. One idea I have is to hold a farewell party for the printed monthly newsletter and create a virtual newsletter. Gone is the day of static messages from the CEO, which sound very 1.0-ish. These would be replaced with the 2.0 version!
- Video posts from the CEO on monthly updates.
- Video posts of other employees activities.
Unleash the power to allow employees to submit their own videos of departmental updates. This idea is very much in the realms of an internal YouTube, which enables employees to comment on everything that is posted. By allowing comments on the CEO’s video post it enables the CEO to receive real time feedback and gauge employee’s perceptions. With employees commenting on video posts it is allowing interaction with fellow co-workers which creates a sense of collaboration, community and togetherness even if employees are disbursed throughout the world. This can smash through the negative perceptions of leaders and start to build organisational trust.
The main objective in both methodologies is to create a sense that the leader(s) are approachable using whatever method each employee is comfortable with. However, before implementing VMBWA there needs to be a strategy of use in place to ensure effectiveness.
When the leader of an organisation is visible this can increase employee trust, morale, performance, behaviour, communication and of course decreases negative perceptions within an organisation – seriously, who doesn’t want to improve that?
The first step to overcoming a problem is identification.
Leader(s) need to ask themselves some tough visibility questions! For example;
- Do you have an open door policy?
- Are you away from the office frequently?
- Do you hold regular all-staff meetings?
- When you talk to senior staff members is the door open or shut?
- Do I contribute to the monthly newsletters?
The answer to these types of questions gauges the perception that is being created by the employees. Once answered by the leader(s) these same questions need to be put to the employees. The manner in which this happens needs to be treated with careful consideration to ensure employee trust and truthfulness.
Identification of the issue and a progression plan to increase leadership visibility should be one area that leaders add to their management toolbox.
Original idea and hack by Amanda White
I would like to thank my Lecture Dr. Bernie Frey for challenging me to think outside the box.
Also like to thank John White and Russell Richardson for support and encouragement.