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Learn to Loiter with Intent

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Learn to Loiter with Intent

Without even realising it’s happening, we’ve become completely out of touch with what’s happening on the ground floor. What’s happening in the trenches, how our people are feeling, what are they challenged with, what’s not working well, what is? We’ve honed our business strategy and we know where we want to head but do we really have control of how we get there?

It’s true that, as a manager, getting stuck in the operational layer of the business can be dangerous if you lose focus on the bigger picture or having a “helicopter view” but it’s just as dangerous to sit in the helicopter all day. Having good people and clear lines of communication between levels of your organisation helps but there’s no substitute for for what I call: Loitering with Intent

Loitering is defined as: to move in a slow, idle manner, making purposeless stops in the course of a trip, journey or errand so by extension, loitering with intent can be defined as: to move in a slow, idle manner, making purposeful stops in the course of a trip, journey or errand. 

Here’s how to be purposeful:

Go offsite onsite

If we want to work “on our business instead of in it” we’re told to go offsite. Find some space away from the daily grind so that we can clear our head and plan, strategise or brainstorm. It’s this separation from distractions that puts us in the best position and the best frame of mind to do this effectively. So, do the same thing, but do it onsite. Put down your laptop, put your phone in the drawer, get away from the distractions and go downstairs.

Listen

Your most valuable assets are the people in the trenches. You may have the ability to set the agenda but your people have the ultimate control of whether the agenda is met. They have the keys to what works and what doesn’t and don’t be surprised if the reasons for each are not at all what you expect. Ask the questions and then shut your mouth and listen! Let your people ask you questions and then find out why they need to ask them in the first place. Listening will give you answers to questions you didn’t know you had and solutions to problems that you haven’t even seen yet.

Look

More times that I can remember, my wife has said to me: “how could you have walked past that thing every day for the last month and not noticed it was broken or dirty?”. I have a habit of being very task driven so I am prone to focus on where I am and then skip right to where I need to be. The journey on the middle is focussed on everything other than looking around me.

What broken things are you walking past every day. When you get downstairs, look up. Look left, look right, look down. What is out of place? Are your people smiling or stressed? Is there clutter or order? Is it too cold, too hot? Look for the things that can be fixed immediately and write down the things that you need to fix later

Sit

You’ll learn a lot by walking around in your business while looking and listening but don’t forget to also stop for a few minutes. Sit down in a different place each time and write down what you see. By stopping, it’s like putting on a pair of x-ray glasses. You’ll see things differently and notice what you didn’t notice by walking around. Perhaps it’s the relaxed posture or maybe looking from different angles. Whatever it is, it works.

Loitering with intent will spark incremental transformation in your business that may take it to a level of success you never thought possible. It is a skill that needs to be practiced, so practice it often. You’ll get better at avoiding distraction and better at listening, looking and sitting

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