I was talking to a friend the other day and, as usual, asked how it was all going. She said it'd been busy at work, very busy in fact and for all the right reasons, but it had meant that she’d had to put an out of office on her Email to say that she may be a while responding and for people to phone if it was important. One such person, who had been waiting and chasing for a response, cheekily found a slot in her diary and chanced their arm for a chat. She accepted. When the person turned up, rather than share any displeasure at not being able to get a response to emails, they opened the meeting saying “thanks so much for your time, I know you’re really busy and from your calendar it looks like you’ve not had a break today so far, so I brought you a blueberry muffin to have whilst we chat”
Sometimes it’s just the little things that make the difference. My friend told me how that meeting made her reflect on how long it had been since anyone had actually taken much of an interest in her or since she'd had any recognition for the work she’d been doing. It had also made her think about how she was treating her own team and the other busy folk around her.
Managers focus on process and tasks, gauging progress almost exclusively from reports. Leaders know the value of governance and reporting but they also know the importance of taking a genuine interest in people, enabling them to put the numbers into context and find out what is really going on, not just what is happening. They say “thank you” a lot! They lead by example, helping to shape the culture around them. As Peter Drucker said “culture eats process for breakfast”
How well do you know your people? When did you last say thanks? Why not take a couple of blueberry muffins to your next 1:1 and find out what's really going on?
Harvey Neve is head of digital products and transformation at Public Health England and a specialist in leadership and change management having held transformational leadership roles in both the private and public sectors, more recently leading the application of new technologies and adoption of the behavioural change required to realise the benefits of digital transformation. Harvey is also director of Inglefield Consulting who specialises in leadership and culture development.
Harvey is a Chartered Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute and a regular blogger/speaker and lives with his wife and family in County Durham, England.