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The Power of Brief Interactions


Think back to when someone of importance in your working life made you feel special. Was it watching them do something extraordinary or listening to a motivational speech? Well maybe it was but chances are it was something far more personal and particular to you. An acknowledgement of what you did or simply asking your views, it could be anything.

Whether it’s your boss, a colleague or someone you admire the occasions when you have even the briefest of interactions with them can be really significant.

A client of mine once told me that it wasn’t in his nature to say ‘please’ or ‘thank-you’. His argument being that at work it wasn’t necessary as people knew they had to get on with what the boss said. It was interesting that he was happy to say this in an open forum and I could see on the faces of everyone there that what he was saying was a true reflection of how he operated. I could also see that they weren’t that impressed by his approach either – you didn’t have to be an expert in body-language to pick it up. I felt compelled to point this out to him and suggest that he might want to try what in reality was the smallest of changes in the way he interacted with others. Of course in that environment he had to agree to it but just how long it lasted I never discovered.

People notice if a simple ‘please’ is included in the way managers and leaders ask for things to be done and a genuine ‘thank-you’ is given when achievements are made. It really is not that difficult a thing to remember to do and with time and practice it does become a natural way of operating. For those who might think it’s not portraying the tough and robust leadership style that they strive for just think for a moment about what is being changed here. Absolutely nothing. If someone truly has delivered a piece of work that was exceptionally challenging then it is only right that their boss or maybe a more senior leader in the company recognizes that by saying thank-you. It’s as simple as that.

A friend of mine told me many years ago how his father who was a senior manager in a large bank always, without fail, said good morning to the security guard at the desk. This might seem a simple thing to do (it is) and maybe just politeness but that security guard noticed and so did others. Taking an interest in the lives of others, even just for a few minutes each day (in this case it was probably no more than 30 seconds) made a difference and it’s surprising how much information you can gather over time – let alone build trust.

So what does this mean for leaders and managers and business owners who are in contact with so many people each and every day? The reality is that each and every interaction with another individual will make an impression. For those who are at the tops of their businesses or teams there has to be a realization that what they do and the way they do it is always visible to others.

So maybe some reminders might be useful here (reminders because surely all leaders and managers know these already):

  1. Always make eye contact with people you are interacting with, it’s what we do naturally when we are interested in those we are speaking with. The same goes for when you are walking around an office. People with look towards you so acknowledge them and if it seems they want to talk to you, take the opportunity to do so – really walk the talk.

  2. Never ever ignore someone. Even if you are the CEO why would you want to ignore people who aren’t ‘on your wavelength’. You might be surprised just how much catering staff, cleaners and yes, security guards know about what is actually going on in any organization.

  3. The handshake is a ritual in the business world but so often it is something that just happens. We all develop our own style of course but use that brief interaction when hands and eyes are in contact to take a personal interest in that individual – ‘How are things with you?’.

Good news spreads and when you treat individuals with respect and take an interest in them that is certainly good news. It builds trust and understanding in you as an individual as well as a leader or manager and starts to develop a culture that is supportive.

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