It’s Monday morning, and you’ve got tasks, assignments, projects, deadlines, and to-do’s on your mind. (Wait, wait, don’t quit this yet :)) Focus for a minute on this – what Daniel Goleman calls the “primary task of leaders” – you’ve got to “prime good feeling,” and activate the energy in your peeps.* Hopefully you got your kids jazzed before they left this morning, maybe got your spouse pumped up, but even if you missed those chances, pay attention now to the energy levels at work. Every person you touch, you want to leave a little bit more energized.
One of the tried and true ways to generate energy in others is to connect. Walk with me into the Biggby Coffee headquarters in East Lansing, and imagine how you might come up with your own adaptation of their leadership practices. I gave the guy at the reception desk my name and told him I was there to meet with Tom Butz, Vice President for Operations. Tom brought me in to his office and started telling me about the Biggby culture – growing fast, but staying way close to the customer. “I’d introduce you to Bob, the co-founder, but he’s almost never here,” Tom said. “He’s out visiting stores and talking to franchisees, employees and customers.” The co-founder is quite literally touching people in the field, listening, and even blogging all about them. You can find little movies of the Biggby’s people he’s met at his “Where’s Bob” blogsite, www.biggbybob.com. Might not mean tons to you, but I bet it gets them psyched.
Tom Butz continued with his excited talk: “Did you meet Mike, our president?. He’s the guy who was sitting at the reception desk,” he went on. “We all do two or three six-hour shifts answering the phone, so we get unfiltered contact.” I was impressed with that. Mike had been so low-key when I’d met him, so matter-of-fact. On my tour a few minutes later, Mike and an employee were doing a conference call from right there in the reception area. What a message they’re sending: my work, like your work, is just work. We all matter here.
Then the coolest part of all was the orange phone sitting on a table in the inner office. “That’s the complaint phone,” Tom said. We all pick it up. Mary, the co-founder, Mike, me whoever’s around.” He said it makes for some comical moments when someone disappointed that the wi-fi wasn’t working says, “the president should know this,” and Mike says, “well, I am the president and I appreciate your calling and telling me.” The phone is an energizer. It shows that the boss is pitching in – one of the tried and true ways to motivate. It also tells customers they care and are really being heard. Finally, it keeps a once-small business in touch.
Maybe you can’t work the front desk, but you can always stop by and ask the receptionist what’s going on, how he’s doing, and what he’s hearing. Maybe you can’t handle the orange phone, but you could ask the customer service people how they’re doing and what they’re hearing. And maybe you’re not Bob, but these days anyone can blog about the cool people they’re meeting and working with and wanting to encourage. Pay attention to energy, as you
Lead with your best self!