I have been blessed to have worked with a few different types of Leaders/Managers. Some of them have been strong on Strategy but slightly weaker on people contact. Some of them have driven strategies to execution through extremely strong people “control”. This piece is about the latter type of managers – the High-Touch Manager !!
The High-Touch Manager believes that no Strategy is great till it is broken down into programs and actionables, and till each of these actionables has a single name against it. And then a date by which this actionable has to be completed. Of all these steps, she gives the most importance, time and thought to the step of “Naming of the responsible person”. Once the Actionable Table is completed, she sort of “forgets” the Vision and Strategy, and converts her life into tracking the people responsible for executing the actionables. She understands from each such person the risks attached with their respective actionable, gauges the human limitations of each such person, and the inputs that she will have to give this person till the actionable is completed. She sits with each person and explains what is the importance of his Project/actionable in the overall business. Depending on what drives that particular person, she sometimes has to explain as to what is the impact of the Project on Society and Environment.
So, in essence, after the initial effort in finding out “What to do ?”, most of the “How to do?” comes from working with People, for the High-Touch Manager.
The High-Touch Manager maintains a list of people reporting to her, and the key people reporting to her reportees. She maintains a People Reach Out Program – PROP with her so that she is in touch with all “her people” (first liners, second liners) on a periodic basis. Depending on the inputs required by each person, and the criticality of their roles in the business, she is in touch with different people at different periodicity – some daily, some bi-weekly, some weekly.
The High-Touch Manager also likes to meet her frontline employees (if different from the list of “her people”). Many of such Managers meet the frontline staff during market visits, or during visits to offices in other cities. However, some of the Managers miss out on the frontline employees in their home city and in their own offices. That requires discipline. Some High-Touch Managers drive the PROP more diligently to include formal one-to-ones with frontline employees in their monthly calendar itself.
The High-Touch Manager tracks on her system birthdays and joining anniversaries of her people. She wishes the people, and many times sends gifts. Some Managers send cakes / cards to the homes of the people, and make their people look good at their homes – the ultimate compliment for many people.
Businesses with High-Touch Leaders/Managers at the helm show lower attrition, higher employee engagement, higher employee satisfaction. Most of the times, this way of working finds its way into the Culture of the organization (or that of the relevant Business Unit).
At the same time, this does not mean that such Managers are necessarily good Strategists. However, from my experience, inputs on Strategy also many times comes from the people working for such managers, and if such managers are humble enough to keep on taking inputs as well, then, chances are that overall strategy will also be correct, or can be corrected.
Coming to the current environment of macro-economic gloom and business slow-down. A high-touch style of management is easily the best way to keep the Team together and get the best out of them. Almost a must !!
Finally, the role of communication in High-Touch Management can never be under-estimated. But we will leave that for another time…