One of the benefits of closing my law firm and working out of a home office is that I'm there when my daughters get home from school. And because of this, I discovered a ritual that's been going on for quite some time without my knowledge.
My youngest daughter, Samantha, who's eight, gets off the school bus every day near our house and races to our front patio. Before she goes to the door, though, she stops and checks the bushes next to the patio. For months now we've had this ginormous spider living in the bushes building this incredible web. It's big: one of these days I expect to see that it's caught a squirrel or maybe the neighbor's poddle for lunch. (Take a look at the photo. The spider is the huge brown blob on the left. Click the photo to biggify.)
Every day, Samantha stops, looks for the spider, makes sure it's still alive, checks out the progress of the web, and sees what other unfortunate critters it has caught. Then, satisfied, she comes into the house and tells me about her day.
Managers could learn a lot from this spider-checking process.
Too many managers rely on performance appraisals and timesheets to see how their employees are doing. They would be much better off getting out of their offices every day and checking in on their employees rather than waiting for the employees to come to them with their problems.
When I would tell other lawyers that I had gotten rid of timesheets in my firm, they would always ask me, in outraged or incredulous tones, "Then how do you know if your associates are working?" And I would smile calmly and say, "By managing them." I'd explain that I'd go around and check on my lawyers and see how they were coming with their various jobs and projects. This would give me much more information than looking at an entry that said, "4.3 hours — Attention to brief."
Managers: go out and check on your spiders every day.