It was late in the day and not a lot of people were left in the office. I was sitting at my desk wrapping up from the arrests we made on my case earlier that day when the head agent in charge of the Los Angeles FBI office came by to congratulate me on the arrests. The Los Angeles FBI office is a large office. It’s so large in fact, that before this day, I had not met the head of our office. Yet, he took the time to come by my desk and congratulate me personally. I remember feeling great afterwards. The head of the office knew about my case and took the time to congratulate me. I must have done a good job! While we may not think we need to hear “Good job,” or be congratulated, it’s always a nice feeling to have it happen. On this day, it was especially meaningful because it was the first arrests made on the first investigation that I had started and worked hard for over several years. Even though I had a couple years on the job at this point, I felt like the new kid on the block being warmly welcomed to the family. It felt great! Again, while we may not think we need recognition, it is always nice to get it! Especially from the heads of our organizations.
I want to take a moment to open that up a bit more. What is it about the heads of our organizations that give them the ability to make us feel great about ourselves? Is it a stigma they have? Power they hold? Or is it simply a function of their position? For me, it comes down to the role we expect them to serve as the leaders of our organizations, tasked with setting an example for the rest of us and spearheading the culture of our organizations. While each and every one of us plays a role in creating the culture of our organizations, the heads of our organizations play the largest role. They lay out the organization’s strategy and path to it, hold the highest level of managerial power, and are looked to for what is acceptable and unacceptable practices, behaviors, and norms for our organizations. Their title also comes with an inherent perception of importance.
“Look at them. They’re in charge of hundreds of people, taking our organizations into the future, and make millions of dollars. They must be important!”
Right or wrong, these are some natural means by which we judge importance in a corporate setting. And when we view someone as important, we often feel they are very busy and excuse the fact we don’t see them around or have an opportunity to interact with them. So, when we do get a chance to interact with them, we feel honored and special for having that opportunity. Moreover, we feel even better when that interaction comes with recognition of what we have done. I want you to take a moment to think back to a time when you were relatively new to an organization, early on in your career. Did you know the CEO by name only or get chance to meet them? Most of us probably fall within the first category of only knowing our CEO by name. Did you even know where their office was? I know I’ve worked for several organizations where I didn’t know where our CEO sat, and I’ve even worked for a few which I can’t even tell you who our CEO was. Do you know who your current CEO is and where they sit?
Now imagine you’ve just completed your first major project that you had ownership of. How would you feel if the CEO came by and personally congratulated you? Great right? Their acknowledgement and recognition of your work would make you feel good, noticed, and special; just like the head of the Los Angeles FBI office made me feel. One simple act by the head of my office had a significant large impact. That single interaction is how, years later, I view and define the type of leader our head of office was. Let’s think about that just a little more. How can one moment have such a lasting effect? Did the head of my office do anything extraordinary, magical, or earth shattering? No. All they did was be a human being and let me see it.
Their simple act showed me they were personable, caring, aware, a real person rather than a mythical figure head, and as hard working as I was. After all, it was late in the day on a day that had started very early. This one act gave me all of this that I still to this day, as I am sharing it with you, hold to be true. What can you do as a leader in your organization to give others the same impression? Time on the floor interacting with other people is too often shoved aside because we feel too busy or are too focused on tasks we have to complete rather than the people who will complete those tasks. What happens if we shift our task focus to a person focus? My experience happens, and with it, a perception that lasts a lifetime all from one simple act.
What simple act can you do today to create an impression of your own which will last a lifetime?