In my meetings with my staff I often talk about staying out of the “Ivory Tower”. As defined in the dictionary, it means:
“A place or attitude of retreat, especially preoccupation with lofty, remote, or intellectual considerations rather than practical everyday life”
In practical business terms, it means spending too much time behind their desks and their computers (and their e-mail), and not enough with their teammates and customers.
If you spend too much time in the tower, it can become a real nightmare trying to effectively lead – you spend a considerable amount of time simply trying to find out what really going on out there. Worse, you make far too many important decisions based on only partial information, and worse yet, on pure heresay.
Hearsay can kill a business dead in its tracks. If you have staff in other ivory towers around you, the information you get from them is at least second hand. And filtered by the bias and perspective of the deliverer.
Granted, a leader can’t be in the field and talking to customers all the time, but even a modest amount of “hands on” involvement can make a huge difference. I travel to the field at least twice a month, and that experience has been invaluable as we have pushed towards our overall goals and objectives.
I can see how corporate directives actually affect those who have to carry them out – going beyond the pure dollars and cents that are seen on the spreadsheets that typically drive those directives (there a lot of spreadsheets in the ivory tower).
I know the money stuff is important (after all, I majored in accounting), but that is only part of the complete picture that needs to be drawn.
There’s also a huge morale benefit to having a leader spend time side by side with his or her teammates in the field – listening to them and their concerns, and spending time explaining the “whys” of the business and the vision behind them.
So avoid the nightmare – get out of the tower and roll up the sleeves!