We constantly hear how busy or stressed people are. Personally, I think this topic in the workplace has overtaken the weather as the top subject matter at the water cooler. In my opinion, we have all the time in the world—it is a matter of our choice on how to use it. We are running around manically picking up documents off the printer, emailing something important, multitasking, and jumping on conference calls. I get it. We have business to take care of.
I am a naturally fast walker. I like to get to places in a straight line and typically do not deviate from my path to get to my destination. I wouldn’t say that I am always in a hurry, but I like to be efficient. The simple act of walking fast applied an unflattering label to me professionally. I was often accused of being unapproachable. Why? I was just going where I needed to be. I always seemed to give a quick smile, I thought.
What people see is all they have. They saw my eyes forward, the straight face saying, “I am on a mission.” The quick smile was not enough to elicit a response. For the most part, there usually was something to do or a place to get to, but not always a “mission.” I was unintentionally closing people out.
In all of our busy worlds, we have only a finite amount of time each day. We must decide how to use that time. Some people like to get involved in social media (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn), while some like to text message the person at the desk next to them. The use of electronics and the ease of virtual communication have negatively impacted our ability to even want to have a personal conversation with the people we spend a lot of time with at work. Even with the ease of electronic communications, we close people out when our faces are buried in our mobile device checking emails or simply giving a head nod to someone while a cell phone is glued to our ears.
Ask yourself the question, “Do I know the name of my co-worker’s spouse?” The message isn’t to drop everything you are doing and become inefficient at work just to get to know someone’s spouse’s name, kids, or pets. The message is to take a couple of minutes, when it makes sense, to establish a relationship with the people you work with. In some cases, it may be to re-establish a relationship with someone at a different personal level. In addition to just making someone feel valued and appreciated, the personal aspect of the job has huge benefits to the professional side.
When I managed the hardest working people in any company, the front line people who worked directly with our customers, I learned to make it a point at the beginning of every day and at the end of every day to tap the chairs of the people I worked with to say hello and thank them for their efforts. I had seen a few very well respected, senior leaders do this for years. I started doing it myself because I wanted the perception of floor presence. I kept doing it because I learned so much about people just by asking about their weekends, the ball game, or the dance recital. It created new questions and discussions for other days. I liked to surprise people with a question about their sons or daughters or ask about a sick relative. I didn’t realize how much I was getting out of it, and how the people I worked with appreciated it.
The most important part was the thank you I wanted to provide them for coming in that day to take care of our customers. It seems like Management 101, but I must have missed that day of class. However, if it is fundamental management, then why was I one of the few people doing it in the management ranks? I actually put it on my calendar to walk on the floor at certain periods of time. The appointment pop-up in the midst of a typically busy day was a constant reminder that my success was directly tied to the people doing the hard work. People often thanked me for investing the short amount of time to do this. This observation also did not go unnoticed by them. Stop and smell the roses, and find the value of a simple greeting.
Thomas B. Dowd III’s books available in softcover, eBook, and audiobook (From Fear to Success only):
- Now What? The Ultimate Graduation Gift for Professional Success
- Time Management Manifesto: Expert Strategies to Create an Effective Work/Life Balance
- Displacement Day: When My Job was Looking for a Job…A Reference Guide to Finding Work
- The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas: Growing from a Cynic to a Professional in the Corporate World
- From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide received the Gold Medal at the 2013 Axiom Business Book Awards in Business Reference
- The Unofficial Guide to Fatherhood
See “Products” for details on www.transformationtom.com. Book, eBook, and audiobook (From Fear to Success only) purchase options are also available on Amazon- Please click the link to be re-directed: Amazon.com