Master the Hallway First, Then the Board Room

Why leaders need to spend more time in the office hallways, chatting up their employees.

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GL Hoffman
When they were younger, my kids would tell their friends that Daddy had a boring job—he just talked with people in the hallway all day.


It takes real skill to master the hallway chatting experience, and here are some "takeaways" or "learnings" for future leaders (that's HR code for "here comes the advice").

There used to be a name for this: management by walking around—MBWA.

Here's why it still works today:

1. More filters than ever. Often the only way to get information is to discover it from those who are closer to the action.

2. You won't get it if you are only seen on sporadic—even planned—fact-finding visits, with a rush-rush-rush attitude.

3. People want to belong and know how their job fits in. Tell the story in unique ways.

4. Be vulnerable. Go around by yourself, and admit what you don't know.

5. Ask, look, and listen. Don't drill them with questions; observe first, and hear what they are talking about. Ask about them first, then about their job. Listen between the lines.

6. Get good at asking questions. There is an art to asking questions without appearing to have an agenda or playing "gotcha."

7. Be a sunshine pump. Tell good news, but be honest.

8. Be authentic. Their BS meters are tuned up and turned on.

9. Catch them doing well. There are far too many great performers who don't get any recognition. A kind word travels far.

10. Fix the problems, but go through their managers.

G.L. Hoffman is a serial entrepreneur and venture investor/operator/incubator/mentor. Two of his companies have traveled the entire success path from the garage to IPO. Currently, he is chairman of JobDig, and his blog can be found at or at