The last week, saw me visiting dealers where our products are sold. The narrow-by lanes of a second tier city, in spaces that could be very mildly described as ‘small’ there was first class commerce and even better insights.
If there was one piece of advice that I keep parroting like a broken record to every new joinee who bumps into me, it is this : get to know the business. And that is very different from ‘get to know your job / get to know your goals etc. ( Just stating it again 🙂 )
Getting to know the business includes getting to know how our money is made, where the money is made, where we bleed, what our realities are in the field. All these look so different when you immerse yourself into the real situation and learn. There is a certain flow to the rhythm of life and work. For every work. To just getting to see it in person gives the much needed richness to the perspective. There is only so much that third party accounts, monthly reports and power point presentations can convey.
Even otherwise, even if you are not a new joinee, even if you know the business like the back of your hand, it is ever so important to get out of the comfort of the corporate office and get to market or the place of impact that you want your plans to work in. Especially so, if you are in any of the people related areas.
Conversations on the ground bring to light new realities, aspects that were not thought of, or nuances that can only be seen on the ground, change the nature of the game and introduce levers, that when used can completely amplify efforts seamlessly.
The other big reason, is the building of relationships with people who will finally run with the ball. For at any point in time, the individual ideas and insights that the frontline will have is higher than what emerges from a powerpoint deck. Knowing a set of frontline folks who you can get ideas from (and who you can run your ideas by) gives a tremendous addition to your firepower as a leader.
Ofcourse, such visits come at a cost. Time and phsyical effort will be at the forefront. But then, there can be no better an investment into the effectiveness of plans that you are making as a leader.
Here perhaps are five things to do, when you go to the field.
a. Go curious. Always be clear that it’s good to ask a few more questions and risk appearing silly. In any case the field knows better about the field. Usually!
b. Field travel requires energy. Go adequately prepared and pack as much as possible into the day.
c. Trust the people on the field to make the final choices. Of who to meet and how. Especially so, after outlining clearly some objectives that you may have in mind.
d. Find out more about the market before you go. Read up about the population, economics, history, socio-political environment etc.
e. Report the observations right back when you are at your desk. Share. Connect people and problems.
A leader’s value comes from connecting the dots, drawing patterns, discussing and deciding. Of these, the dots are something that can be picked up from the field. Accompanying the dots for free, is the conviction to stay the course with the decisions that get made on the basis of these immersive dots! Ground up is a good way to go.