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The New York Times yesterday had an interview with Susan Lyne, currently the CEO of Gilt Groupe, an online luxury retailer, and formerly the president/CEO of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and, before that, the president of ABC Entertainment.

In it, she talks about one of her precepts of leadership: Office hours.

“(It) was really triggered by a conversation I had with a young Silicon Valley executive, Marissa Mayer, who mentioned that she did office hours every week. She was a professor before she came to Google, and she kept office hours going, and she said it was a really useful way to kind of access the engineers’ real ideas. Not the ideas that come out of a meeting, but, ‘What are you excited about?’ And it sounded like an interesting concept to me. I do it now — I try to do it two hours a week, where anyone from our company can book half an hour with me.

“It’s turned out to be a fantastic way to find out what’s bubbling under the surface and what’s not coming across to people. And a surprising number of people will book time with me who are significantly down the food chain. In some cases it’s because they want to have a little face time with me so that they can get noticed. But there’s always something that’s on their mind.

“And when you are running a company it’s very hard to get below a certain level, maybe one level below your direct reports. It does give me a way to get to know people a little better that I pass in the hallway or I see in the Monday all-hands meeting. It’s also a great early-warning system for something that may be either misunderstood or a challenge within a department.”
KC's View:
I just thought this was a great idea, and worth passing along. Any leader can do it…and it may be one of those things that can help an executive make the leap from being a manager to be a real leader.