The Power of Rounding: 5 Reasons to Leave Your Office

Written on:April 15, 2013
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Rounding can be described as the simple act of getting out of your office and visiting the operational work areas of your business and the places where your customers spend time. The current TV show, Undercover Boss, is an example of rounding. A CEO disguises him or herself, and spends time with the average employee, working side by side with front line staff.

This is an entertaining show. However, this is not what most, normal leaders in most companies do. And, this is not what this article suggests. It is rounding. It is getting out of the office and visiting the front line. And, you don’t need to be a CEO to do this. In fact, all leaders, at all levels of the organization should be rounding, being in connection with front line employees.

You can do this, too. You don’t need to put on a disguise. Just get up and go. In fact, let your front line leaders and employees know who you are, let them know you are going to be visiting on a regular basis.

Here are five excellent reasons for this. Before we discuss these reasons, let’s consider an analogy that will help us.

Picture, if you will, a small pile of pebbles on the ground. Each weighs about an once. They are small, and you can easily pick up a handful at a time. Next to these picture a stone a bit larger than a large fist. This weighs in at just over five pounds. You can pick it up with one hand, but you can only pick up and carry one. If you are a big, strong person, you might be able to carry two easily. It is not just the weight of the stone, after all five pounds is not that much, but it is awkward. Carrying a lot of these five pound stones would get tiring. Now, next to the stone, picture a large rock. This rock is larger than the ottoman in your living room. It weighs in at over 150 pounds. A strong person can budge it. Barely. To actually move it from one place to another takes several people, and ideally, some assistive devices, perhaps a lever and a dolly or a cart of some sort.

These pebbles, stones and rocks represent issues and opportunities. As you can imagine, small issues are easy for one or two people to handle, larger issues take more time, are more difficult and require more people.

Keep this analogy in mind as we look at the five reasons for rounding.

[section title=”1. Risk mitigation.”]

Managers and employees are busy. They don’t run to HR or to Risk or to Senior Leaders every time a small issue surfaces. Front line managers and employees will tolerate small issues, and will wait for these issues to become larger and more complex before reporting.

Consider the pebbles or the larger rock. Which would you rather handle? Of course, we would all rather pick up a few pebbles. You can pick up pebbles all day long, if you go out and find them. Dealing with small pebbles will significantly reduce risk at your company. From safety issues, to equipment, to co-worker relationships, to scheduling, to service quality, to product quality, to cost control, to revenue generation, to compliance, to… enter any number of other items. All these elements are related to issues that your Risk managers deal with. Get out of your office and go find some pebbles.

[section title=”2. Issue identification and resolution.” tip=”Listen to our employees. They have much to tell us.”]

Very similar to risk mitigation, consider other issues that are important to the company, to leadership, to policy and program and practice compliance. Again, front line leaders and front line staff are not motivated to either identifying or reporting on things that are considered small or insignificant.

However, with respect to delivering on your company mission, delivering product and being financial responsible, these small issues may be of tremendous value. If you knew what they were. Get out of your office, go round on your front line work areas, keep your eyes and ears open, and ask questions. Listen to what is said and not said. Very easily, you will find there are a whole lot of pebbles out there waiting for you. You will only find them if you get out of your office and go rounding.

[section title=”3. Credibility.”]

So difficult to come by, and so difficult to keep. One simple story, based on gossip or misunderstanding, can destroy the credibility of a leader, a department, a product line, or of a senior leader. As a professional practitioner, whether a human resource professional or a leader of the organization, you can gain personal credibility by being visible to those on the front line.

While you round, you answer questions, you correct inaccuracies that are driven by gossip, you help front line leaders and employees understand that they are known and cared about. As you listen and assist others, your credibility grows.

[section title=”4. Respect.”]

Similar to credibility, rounding is an excellent method for allowing others to have respect for who you are and what you do. It is much easier for you to work with others while you round, to solve small issues, small questions, and small challenges. Doing so, you are demonstrating respect for others in your organization, and this in turn will reflect as respect for you.


[section title=”5. Customer service.”]

As we round we are modeling service. As we take care of small issues, picking up those small pebbles, we are modeling for others in the organization. While no behavior, modeled, taught, instructed, or otherwise demonstrated, will transfer spontaneously, it will be noticed and replicated over time. This means you and others need to round all the time. This means you need to ask about customers. As you round, your focus is not only on risk mitigation, issue identification and personal and professional credibility and respect. These four items all lead to your customer.


What we do, at the end of the day, is all about the customer. We are in business to serve our customers. Even if we measure success by numbers on the bottom line, our bottom line is driven by what we do for our customers. Plain and simple. When you round, go after the customer experience. Ask your co-workers about the customer. Ask your front line employees about the customer. Ask your front line leaders about the customer. As the customer about the customer.

Don’t do these things once a year, or go undercover in a disguise. Do these things routinely. Daily if possible. Weekly if not daily. Never just monthly, quarterly or annually.

I frequently hear from leaders that they are too busy or their schedules too tight. If you are too busy for your customers, then you might be way too busy for a lot of things. There is nothing more important to us as leaders or as front line employees than our customers.

6. Bonus tip: Rounding makes your job easier. You might not care about any of the five items noted above. Or you may know of a co-worker who does not care. That is ok. At least for the time being. You will not achieve long-term success by not caring, however, you can still benefit from these practices, even if you don’t care right now.

The practice and habit of rounding will make your job easier. Consider the analogy of pebbles, stones and rocks. It is much easier for me to pick up a handful of pebbles than to figure out how to push a large rock around.

Rounding makes your job easier.

Rounding connects you to your employees.

Rounding improves your company’s service levels.

Rounding gets you closer to the customer.

Rounding is good for business.

One Comment add one

  1. Dr. Alvaro F Espinosa says:

    Dear Philip, CONGRATULATIONS for a job well done! I believe that you have presented a timely subject very clearly and to the point. I found the subject matter well developed and to be concise in its expression and application.

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