While you may not think of Napoleon as a model for modern leaders, many of the topics explored by Jerry Manus in Napoleon on Project Management relate to timeless skills and practices applicable to leading teams in any setting. One of these practices involves staying in close contact with the team members. In Napoleon's words,
Nature formed all men equal. It was always my custom to go amongst the soldiers and the rabble, to converse with them, hear their little histories, and speak kindly to them. This I found to be the greatest benefit to me.
While referring to team members as "rabble" may result in a mandatory day of sensitivity training, the general idea is right on target for team leaders and managers. As Manus describes it, leaders have three purposes for regularly interacting with team members:
- build relationships (which in turn builds trust)
- identify any barriers that the leader can can remove
- gauge the team’s morale
By staying in touch with team members, I find it easier to sense when tensions are building, assess whether individuals are becoming stressed or anxious, and identify when I need to take a more active role in problem solving. Interaction also offers opportunities to inspire others, and to share in the successes and camaraderie of the team. A great tool I've found for making interaction a regular part of my routine is the Daily Five Minutes suggested by Rosa Say. Try it out!
One warning that Manus cautions is to not let increased interaction slip into micromanagement, which will undermine your efforts. As Manus puts it on his website,
There is a tremendous difference between being visible and micromanaging. It is one thing to mingle, to ask how things are going or if there is anything you can do to help. It is another to hover over people’s backs and nitpick about what they’re doing wrong.