"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness...."
Mr. Dickens, I couldn’t have said it any better myself, so I didn’t even try. Your eloquent words perfectly describe this past week and my encounters with two CEOs. (I’ll need to borrow a few more of your lovely lines throughout this blog.)
Again, Dickens wrote that, but it sounds a lot like my first CEO encounter this week. It took place at a Starbucks and started with a handshake, a hearty hello, and a concentrated look right in my eyes. From there, the conversation meandered casually and naturally. He asked me how my day was, how long I’d been running my business, my preferred clientelle, etc. He then spotted my Charity:Water bracelet, and we exchanged stories of campaigns we’d done or were doing.
An hour later, we met at his office for another meeting. Once there, he took the time to introduce me and my business to his staff. I later found out it’s his daily practice to walk around to the 50+ offices and workspaces to personally say hello to each of his staff.
When we were done, he asked if there was anything else I needed from him and then wished me well.
Dickens words also seem to describe my second encounter. This one began with no hello. No wave. No indication of my existence. Instead, this CEO merely popped his head in a meeting I was having with his staff. He looked right passed me and asked a question of the person sitting immediately behind me. He saw me…just didn’t acknowledge me.
I thought, it can only go up from there. Until it went down. On our next brief encounter that morning, he basically tiptoed behind me while I talked with a member of his team in his lobby. Had I not heard his bag while he turned the corner, I wouldn’t even have known he was there. Not a word. I was invisible.
The funny thing about these two encounters is that I’d only just met the first CEO that day, while I’d known the second CEO for years. One would think there must be some ill feelings between the second CEO and me. But after years of seeing this behavior, I no longer believe that to be the case.
As Dickens said: “A day wasted on others is not wasted on one’s self.” So very true. If you’re in leadership, you must adopt this thinking in the way you run your businesses. You must stop hiding out in your offices. You must get out and meet the citizens of your company. Ask them about their lives. They want to hear from you. They’d love to know you take an interest in them as people, not just as employee ID numbers.
Take time to say hello.