Recently, I was at Virgin’s airport lounge in Sydney waiting to catch a plane back to Melbourne, and at the same time Richard Branson was in the lounge saying hello to guests and chatting with staff.
Apparently, he does that every time he is in town. No doubt he’s busy, but he finds the time to do it because he knows that taking the time for people matters.
It also has direct business benefits because it makes the employees feel good about working at Virgin, and it makes the customers feel appreciated and therefore pleased that they chose to fly Virgin.
It’s an easy thing to do, but not all leaders make the time.
I contrast Richard Branson’s actions with a CEO I use to work with who if he walked past you in the corridor would actively avoid eye contact so that he didn’t have to interact with employees. The message it sent was that he wasn’t interested and couldn’t be bothered making the effort.
Being a leader can be hard at times, and yet there are also many times that it can be incredibly easy.
Everyone wants to feel they matter and to be acknowledged, and as a leader there are lots of small steps you can take – every day – to build connection and engagement with the people you work with.
Here are some simple practices you can build into your daily routine.
(And yes, I agree many of these actions shouldn’t need to be pointed out, but it is surprising how much of this can get missed when you are busy, stressed and rushing from meeting to meeting.)
- Be friendly and greet people when you come in to work in the morning. A simple ‘hello’ can go a long way and it only takes a few seconds
- Take an interest in the people you work with at a personal level. Find out what matters to them and ask them about their interests, family and other events that are important to them
- Whether you work in open plan or an office, take the time regularly to wander the floor and check in on how people are doing
- On occasions, rather than send an email make the request or response in person; remembering, there are times when it is a faster way to action a piece of work
- Respond to all emails and phone calls from people you work with, and if time doesn’t permit this then have someone in your team who can respond on your behalf, or you have delegated the action to. When you ignore someone’s request for help or advice you are setting the standard that it’s ok to ignore people you work with
- Don’t cancel one on one meetings. There will be occasions when you may need to change a meeting with a direct report, but when you do this regularly the team member feels under-valued and it can add to their stress levels
- Be polite and appreciative of the efforts of those around you. It doesn’t take much to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and yet with email communication it can often be forgotten
- Pay attention and focus when a team member or colleague is speaking to you. Give them your undivided attention and don’t answer phone calls or respond to emails during the conversation
- Pick up the phone and say ‘thank you’ and ‘well done’ to people in your team who are making a contribution. This little bit of effort will demonstrate to them that you have noticed what they do and that their efforts matter
By doing these actions you demonstrate to your colleagues and team members that you respect, value and appreciate them which goes a long way towards you being a great leader.
As the noted writer Ernest Hemingway said: “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”
Update: This article is also featured in A Gift of Inspiration website as a featured positive inspirational story, published February 2019.
Getting you ready for tomorrow, today.
Michelle Gibbings is a change leadership and career expert and founder of Change Meridian. Michelle works with global leaders and teams to help them get fit for the future of work. She is the Author of ‘Step Up: How to Build Your Influence at Work’ and ‘Career Leap: How to Reinvent and Liberate Your Career’. For more information: www.michellegibbings.com or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.