When done properly, rounding is much more than superficial “face time” or wandering around. It is meaningful. And it is the heart and soul of what we call evidence-based leadership—a term inspired by another health care concept, evidence-based medicine. The evidence, in this context, is the reams of data collected from study after study that aim to determine what people really want and need from their leaders.
There are five critical elements employees look for from their managers. Rounding helps us accomplish each and every one of them:
1. Employees want a manager who cares about and values them. The number-one reason people leave their jobs is because they feel they are not valued. What’s more, people don’t leave their team—they leave their direct supervisor. And we can’t assume our employees know that we value them. Some may, but others may not. When we round properly, we automatically build strong relationships with all of our employees. It just happens naturally.
There are moments of reality for each employee when an action by a leader will either cement his loyalty or begin his exit journey. The story of Vinnie exemplifies this truth. Vinnie worked for a small company. About a year ago, the company was purchased. In effect, he went from being a big fish in a small pond to being a medium-sized fish in a big pond.
During the transition, Vinnie did a lot of soul-searching about his new role in the company. In December, he shared with me that he was seriously thinking of looking at other options. That very week he received a handwritten letter from the president of the company. In it, the president thanked Vinnie and shared his excitement about the future. Vinnie not only stayed, he made a big commitment to the new organization and moved his family from Florida to California to be closer to company headquarters . . . and all because a leader showed that he cared.
2. Employees want systems that work and the tools and equipment to do the job. Obviously, a major part of job satisfaction centers on being able to actually do our job. From time to time, most companies experience equipment breakdowns that stymie and frustrate employees. In some cases, people have complained among themselves for years about inefficient systems and processes. (As we all know, employees are far more likely to vent to each other than to a leader who might be able to do something about the complaint.) Rounding solves these problems and gives productivity a boost.
Mike shared this story with me. As he was walking through an area of his organization, he asked some employees if they had the tools and equipment they needed to do the job that day. One lady said no. She told him they needed more of a certain type of equipment. Mike made sure they got it that day.
A few weeks later, as Mike was visiting the area again, the lady came up to him and said, “The other day was going to be my last day, but when you asked about equipment I decided to give you a chance. When you delivered on your promise I decided to stay.” Such moments of reality, however unplanned, are often make-or-break moments for us, our staffs, and our organizations.
3. Employees want opportunities for professional development. Rounding is a natural avenue for discovering whose skill sets need improvement and for initiating professional development discussions. Daily rounds present the ideal scenario for suggesting training to someone who clearly needs it, or to ask one employee to mentor another. Rounding also gives us many opportunities to help high performers move to an even higher level. A leader wishing to instigate such a conversation might say something like, “We want to keep you in our organization and are committed to helping you excel professionally. Is there any training that you feel might be helpful to you?”
4. Employees want to be recognized and rewarded for doing a good job. A big part of the rounding process involves asking people who among their peers is demonstrating exceptional performance—and then passing the compliments on. It’s an excellent way to build morale, as praise from one’s peers is probably the most meaningful kind.
5. Employees don’t want to work with low performers. Nothing makes employees as discouraged and resentful as having to coexist with people who don’t pull their own weight. In fact, low performers usually drive high performers right out the door. Rounding naturally solves this problem. Of course, once we find out who the low performers are, we have to move them up or out—as we discussed in the first chapter. It’s not easy, but it’s absolutely necessary.