Building an organization that’s fit for the future cannot happen without building an organization that’s fit for human beings.
This kind of caring culture doesn’t start big. It starts small – in those everyday encounters with the folks you come in contact with.
Busy people tend to sidestep these moments. Our to-do lists are long, and people can seem like an obstacle to productivity. At least that’s the way we feel.
So we naturally see potential interactions as interruptions.
Leaders must have the balcony view of the organization. That’s the larger, big picture view. As important as that is, it’s only part of a leader’s focus. There is also the basement experience. This is the human side of the organization. It’s the up close and personal view. One is a see it view, and the other is a feel it experience.
This is where those small and brief interactions become highly invaluable.
Here are 3 ways these interactions promote growth.
1. Brief encounters help you understand the organization. Before you can lead an organization you must understand it. In reality it’s an organism. Now there’s no such thing as an unorganized organism. Even the simple cell is organized. And the larger the organism, the more complex the organization. But it’s first and foremost an organism – in this case – made up of live people.
As leaders we strive for alignment throughout the organization. Yet the effective leader also takes a deep dive as an active participant. You feel the humanness and the messiness that accompanies every complex organism. You understand where resistance to change is lodged. Conflicting needs are spotted. Both growth and stability are combined that leads to innovation and change. You see (balcony), and feel (basement), the tension which better equips you to lead.
2. Brief encounters give you the opportunity to be authentic. Authenticity means connecting with yourself and with others. Authenticity is often misunderstood.
Authenticity is not an individual sport. It’s a team sport.
It’s not self-centered. It’s other-centered. It’s being true to yourself while at the same time bringing out the best in others. Saying whatever is on your mind might be spontaneous, but it’s not necessarily authentic. Being rude does not usually reflect what we say we value at our core. Being authentic is not “shooting from the hip.” If mutual respect is important then controlling our responses is acting authentically.
Authenticity and effectiveness go together. And it’s both personal and social. In the book Why Should Anyone Be Lead By You?, the authors talk about what it means to be authentic. “A leader has to be many things to many people. The trick is to pull that off while remaining true to yourself.”
3. Brief encounters become your touchpoints that add value. Many interruptions are touchpoints in disguise. In his book Touchpoints: Creating Powerful Leadership Connections in the Smallest of Moments, Douglas Conant, former CEO of Campbell Soup, says that “small everyday encounters define your impact on your organization and your reputation.” These touchpoints are the multiple interactions we have everyday. What we think keeps us from our real work could be the real work. What if they were turned into opportunities to communicate vision, values, and culture? A time waster becomes a strategy enhancer.
As you touch people and add value to their life, you add value to your organization. Maybe it’s celebrating a success, discussing an issue, or answering a question. It cuts across all leadership encounters – teaching, mentoring, coaching, parenting, managing. Look for ways to improve on those moments. As you listen, frame, and advance the conversation, your leadership comes to life.
Bill Clinton said,
“Being a leader is like running a cemetery. There’s a lot of people under you – and nobody’s listening.”
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Turning interruptions into interactions helps you understand the organization from the balcony to the basement – you see it and feel it. It affords you the opportunity to deploy your best self – your authentic self. It provides you with an opportunity to add value to others – turning the touchpoint into an impactful encounter.
6 brief encounters everyday adds up to over 2100 potentially powerful interactions each year.
That little moment is no small matter.