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Spending quality time with staff

By Nick Easen for CNN

Monthly "blackouts" keep staff focused on their priorities.
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(CNN) -- While most of us are going high-tech, one high profile boss is going back to basics to keep in touch with his staff.

Microsoft's Asia president, Sanjay Mirchandani, is fanatical about being available to all his employees the old fashioned way -- through face-to-face meetings.

Mirchandani even has his own jargon and management philosophy to back it up.

Every month he has what he calls "parking-lot time" -- six half-hour face-to-face slots available to the first people that book, regardless of their position in the company.

Mirchandani also attends monthly "blackouts" -- three-day uninterrupted management discussions where mobile phones are banned and there is no outside access.

Chatting with employees is hardly a groundbreaking idea, but what sets Mirchandandi apart is the importance he stresses on allocating blocks of time to his staff -- what he calls his "embrace and engage" philosophy.

"The busier I became the more I realized the importance of staying connected and accessible to the people who are at the coalface of our business," Mirchandani told CNN.

"This is about formally setting aside time for one of my core responsibilities -- our people in the Asia Pacific."

Mirchandani uses both concepts to listen and learn about everyday experiences staff have with customers, as well as their solutions for client problems.

"The best ideas come from employees out in the field who work every day with clients. (But the meetings) are important to employee morale, to the business, and an essential part of my day," he explains.

Mirchandani believes it is crucial to lend his physical presence to these sessions.

"The time I spend talking with our employees is one of the most important things I can do, because of what I can learn. It also demonstrates a commitment to the people around me," he says.

The company's Asia president is not averse to using technology, however, and he now uses chat room sessions to broaden his communication channels with staff.

"The key to making it successful is in scheduling time and then committing to that time. Use technology and make it personal."

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