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Go See

December 4, 2013

Dr. Robert Gerwig

Gerwig 2013-12-04

Have you ever flown on a plane? Most likely you have. Yes, there are some of you who, for a variety of reasons, have never flown, but most of you have. Of course it’s not as “romantic” as it was at one point in time. Most people don’t get dressed-up to fly anymore. Added airport security takes time and adds inconvenience. And free meals are a distant memory.

Of course there are many modes of transportation besides commercial airlines, including Trains, Automobiles, Boats, Bicycles, Skateboards, Motorcycles, and Walking (to name a few). Each of these has its own set of pros and cons. Some are expensive. Some are cheap. Some are fast. Some are slow. Some require a ticket. Some are free. But regardless of how you choose to travel, the real point to get somewhere, right?

Many years ago I went to my boss, who was a manufacturing manager, and asked him a question about a specific piece of equipment. I believed it to be a simple question for my boss who had been around a long time. But instead of answering me, he said, “Let’s Go See.” We walked out of the office area, down a couple flights of stairs and into the manufacturing facility. As we arrived at the piece of equipment, I immediately “saw” the answer to my question. Yes, I was a bit humbled and embarrassed, but I did not fail to catch the lesson.

You see my boss, who had many pressing, time-sensitive demands aside from my simple question, was helping shape me. He knew I was an eager learner. He knew the answer to my question before we walked out on the manufacturing floor. And he knew that it would not benefit either of us in the long-run if he gave me the answer. He was teaching me to fish (not giving me a fish).

A couple lessons I took away from that experience: 1) Think twice before asking someone (especially your boss or someone higher on the “food chain”) a question that you could easily find out via other means, and 2) Go See. Get up from behind the computer, stand up and Go See. Put your eyes on the piece of equipment. Or the person. Or the building. Or the “whatever.” A world-class leader doesn’t lead from behind a desk. Yes, there are administrative demands that often require “desk time,” but you must Go See to learn, verify, and build relationships. It also helps clear your head.

When you Go See, you might be able to walk. But you might need to travel a long way. You might need to fly. Though air-travel is no longer a “romantic” activity and you might not travel first-class, it may be necessary (and valuable). There are many transportation modes, as noted above, to facilitate the Go See process. Don’t let transportation be an excuse.

Go See can take place in many different settings. … You just had a new grandson born in Arizona, but you live in New Jersey. While Skype and Instagram is nice, there’s nothing like seeing and holding the baby in person. Get on a plane and Go See your grandson. … You want to see how an automatic sorter is functioning in your warehouse. You look at specs and pictures online. But there is nothing like observing, touching and, perhaps, running the sorter live and in person. Get up out of your chair. Walk out into your warehouse and Go See the sorter. … Your child’s teacher emails you about a classroom issue. Instead of trading numerous emails that add to the confusion, get in your car, drive to the school and Go See the teacher.

You get the idea. Don’t be lazy. Don’t make excuses. Go See. … It may not be practical to Go See as often as you’d like. The point is to consider it. Would it add value? Would you learn something? Would you be able to reduce or eliminate future problems? … For example, let’s say you manage 14 restaurants across North America from your corporate office in Chicago. You’re responsible for the overall performance of these restaurants. You look at reports. You look at spreadsheets. You look at charts. You pick up the phone and call the local restaurant general manager. You instant message, text and email her as well. Perhaps you even Skype occasionally and Go See her restaurant once a quarter. You can’t Go See all 14 restaurants on the same day. You can’t be in multiple places at the same time. So what do you do?

You use a hybrid approach. You use the various tools at your disposal in a situational manner. You continue using everything from spreadsheets to emails to phone calls. But if a restaurant is experiencing a significant issue, you need to Go See. You travel to the restaurant and Go See the general manager. You Go See the kitchen. You Go See the staff. In sum, you Go See so you can verify what the spreadsheets and charts are telling you. You Go See so you can have a face-to-face dialogue with the general manager. You Go See so you can significantly improve your communication effectiveness. You Go See so you can help remove obstacles and strengthen the relationship.

Do you Go See? Do you get out and put your eyes on things? What did you learn when you did? How would you encourage other leaders to Go See?

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

Dr. is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]LeadStrategic.com.

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