Human identity is the most fragile thing that we have, and it’s often only found in moments of truth. – Alan Rudolph
We tend to consider the negative impact of distractions as it relates to our productivity.
But what about our communications? And what about our…gasp…relationships?
We tend to evaluate our productivity and effectiveness based on what we accomplished during a given time period. Projects completed for the month. Progress on our priorities this week. Items crossed off our daily task list.
But life is experienced in moments.
Our business brand is formed. Our personal brand is experienced by others.
One interaction at a time.
You’re No Different
Jan Carlzon, the former CEO of SAS Group (parent of Scandinavian Airlines), wrote a book called Moments of Truth. He made the following observation in the book:
“Thirty thousand passengers… fly SAS every day and come face to face with our people about five times a trip. That’s a hundred fifty thousand encounters a day, moments of truth that can make or break us and I don’t control a single one of them.”
The competency. The attitude. The connection.
One hundred fifty thousand times per day.
Cornell’s Center for Hospitality Research estimates that for a B2C business like a two-hundred-and-fifty-room hotel, will have at least five thousand interactions between staff and guests per day.
Reservations. Valet. Registration. Housekeeping. Dining. Maintenance.
What did the customer experience? Perfunctory or professional? Distracted or energetic? What interaction will ensure that the guest will want to come back — and in the meantime recommend the hotel to their friends?
That’s fine for national airlines and large hotels, but what about your business? Your department? Your team?
Your customers are drawing conclusions about your brand based on their overall experience. Not necessarily where you focus your attention and training.
And what about you personally?
Your employees are drawing conclusions about your leadership brand based on what they experience. How your actions match up with your words. What behaviors you tolerate. What values show up in your daily communications and interactions.
And Then You Go Home
For the last twenty years I’ve been an executive coach. People pay me money for me to ask them questions. And to listen to their challenges and opportunities. Their dreams and disappointments. I challenge. I nudge. I encourage.
I take that role seriously.
In those sessions, I pay close attention. I remain engaged. I focus. I listen. And then I listen some more.
And then I go home and ask my wife how her day is going. By the third sentence out of her mouth, my mind starts to wander. That gnawing doubt that I handled an earlier conversation the right way. The nuance in the client’s response that I haven’t quite figured out. Tomorrow’s meeting that I need to prepare for. The prospective client who…
Wait… My wife stopped talking. Is she waiting for me to respond? Did she just ask a question? Oh, no!
I pay close attention to clients because it is part of my job.
But the person I love more than anyone on earth gets a half-hearted effort? A half-minded effort?
“Our work, our relationships, and our lives succeed or fail one conversation at a time. While no single conversation is guaranteed to transform a company, a relationship, or a life, any single conversation can. Speak and listen as if this is the most important conversation you will ever have with this person.” — Susan Scott
God bless you, Susan Scott, for putting this in perspective.
Consider the people whom you love / desire / respect.
The one sigificant other.
Family members. Maybe not all of them, OK, but at least a few?
Close friends. At least one?
Your team members. Your A players, right?
Your best customers. They’re important. They’re also human.
Relationships are built in moments, one interaction at a time.
Eugene O’Kelly, in his book Chasing Daylight, tried to be conscious of being completely present with the meaningful people in his life. He called them “Perfect Moments.” His context was a doctor’s diagnosis of inoperable brain cancer and only ninety days for him to live. He was determined to be intentional about scheduling time with the people he cared the most about, and understanding that any interaction could be their last one together.
He was, therefore, determined to accept those moments as a gift. They were to be treasured. Sometimes, nothing needed to be said. Connection could occur in the moment. The Perfect Moment.
You Have to Avoid Groundhog Day
Our daily interactions run together. We see the same people, have the same conversations, in the same settings. Some days we feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day.
We try to get through the mundane, boring stuff, so we can get to the exciting activities that drive us. The “important stuff.” Events. Goals. Achievements.
We’re hustling. We’re promoting. But we can be scattered. Maybe rudderless.
And yet the chase continues.
We allow ourselves to be distracted by our smart phones and every possible beep, buzz and vibration. We even get interrupted by notifications from our time management and productivity apps.
And then we miss out on what our customer really wanted us to hear.
We miss out on that personal need from our best employee. Or our quietest one.
We miss out on the radiant splendor of the sunset, the smell of the fresh-cut grass, or the beauty and perfection in the new-fallen snow.
We also miss out on the connection of a touch, a smile, a tear, or the energy found in silence.
By all means, have massive personal and professional goals and go after them with vigor and passion. They make life exciting and get you out of bed every day.
But don’t forget to experience life each and every day. Use all your senses. Make time for the people who mean the most to you. Seek the joy and wonder in the little things in life. Those moments should get you out of bed as well.
Two expressions you need to banish from your vocabulary:
I will be happy when…
I will achieve a life of meaning when…
You have control of your brand, both professionally and personally.
You determine how you interpret the people and events around you. Your perspective. Your mindset.
Presence — the art of having your mind and body in the same place at the same time. — Gary Paris
Be intentional. With your time. With your interactions. With your brand.
Customers. Team members. Family.
Create a moment. A perfect moment. Every day.
And you don’t have to use any words.