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September 21, 2006

Management Idea #1: Mr. Shake-Hands Man

For some reason when I was trying to to go sleep in my room at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, I started thinking about ideas for management. Since I have never (yet) had an idea at 2 a.m. that I didn't think was worth blogging out, I'll lay them out for you.

The first one is about a way to figure out what your employees think about their jobs ("employees" in this case meaning everybody who works under you--so for Steve Ballmer this would mean all of Microsoft, but it would apply to any smaller organization also). You could ask you direct managers, but they will probably give you fluffy feel-good answers, even if they knew otherwise, which they probably wouldn't. You could commission an internal anonymous poll, as Microsoft does, but your results are likely biased by who bothers responding.

So, here is my idea. All you do is shake hands and introduce yourself to every employee. Break it into chunks if your arm gets tired, but basically just line 'em up and go for it. Have everybody say their name and shake your hand, and see what vibe you pick up from them.

My theory is this will work because employees will see you, as someone up their management chain, as the personification of the organization they work in. If they like their job they will credit you for that, and if they don't they will blame you for not fixing the problem. Thus, if they are happy and enthusiastic about shaking your hand it means they like their job, and if they don't seem too thrilled about it, they are unhappy. (We had a little taste of this at the Microsoft Company Meeting today. At one point Steve Ballmer ran into the crowd and started high-fiving anybody would offered their hand for slapping. I have no doubt that all the people who did so are people who like their jobs--but not everybody wanted to high-five SteveB.)

This theory is also based on the interviewing "Blink" notion, that you make a decision about a candidate in about ten seconds just from the handshake and introduction. In the time it takes to introduce yourself to someone you should be able to make a decision about whether they really like you. And I doubt people would have the notion or the ability to disguise their true feelings. So run down the line and at the end of it, if you feel happy, then your employees are probably happy.

Posted by AdamBa at September 21, 2006 09:23 PM

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I just had a funny thought when thinking about your SteveB high fiving run down the aisle. I'd love to see someone just reach out and clothesline that train wreck of a CEO....I'm laughing even now just thinking about it.

Posted by: I make myself laugh at September 22, 2006 12:45 AM

Well, I actually like Steve, so I would recommend against this.

And keep in mind that momentum is mass times velocity. When he's in "running high-five" mode, Steve has a fair bit of one of those and a decent amount of the other. So watch out.

- adam

Posted by: Adam Barr at September 22, 2006 09:47 PM

That idea won't work. The problem is that it relays on body language. Most of people usually are not aware of it and so it could give away their thoughts. However when the same act (hand shaking) is repeated multiple times, it would become automatic and they would get used in faking it.

Posted by: Ivan at September 24, 2006 08:08 AM

I have no doubt that all the people who did so are people who like their jobs--but not everybody wanted to high-five SteveB.

I sort of felt bad for everyone who high-fived SteveB after SteveB talked about how he was running a fever on stage.

Pass the purell please!

Posted by: Dennis at September 24, 2006 06:35 PM