People can have 200 or more interactions a day, if you count e-mail. Each is an opportunity to advance the company’s agenda. We found that many executives brush these interactions aside because they’re too busy trying to get the “real work” done. But this is the real work, and it ripples out around you. Someone will tell others, “I had a really good conversation with Doug in the lunch line,” instead of saying, “That jerk, he’s not giving me the time of day.”
You can’t manage every interaction well. There are times when you can’t talk to people; you have to discriminate. But if you manage three encounters better today than you did yesterday, every day, you can fundamentally change the trajectory of your leadership profile. And we’ve found that people who take on this discipline, just one interaction at a time, start to improve their ability to contribute.
Once you get good at paying attention to people on the fly, you learn to deal with people’s issues with empathy and efficiency. You raise your contribution profile and start to advance in the company. Ultimately, the way you show up in any given moment, moment after moment, is the behavior that defines your legacy.
Reprint No. 00128
- Art Kleiner is editor-in-chief of strategy+business.