I lost my Dad very suddenly in late August of 2019. I spent a good amount of time in my grief being angry with myself for not calling him more often. I hadn’t talked to him when he passed away in nearly three weeks. I had been busy with work. I had a lot of obligations. I was going to see him in early September. Write in any excuse you want; the fact is I didn’t pick up the phone. And my Dad, bless him, didn’t want to bother me knowing how busy I was. So, we hadn’t talked.
I have tried hard over the last few years to turn my failure into a lesson. A reminder to slow down, make an effort and reach out to people when I am thinking of them. Being conscious of this has led to some very rewarding reunions in my personal life with old friends who have proved to be just as wonderful as they were when we met in our teenage years.
Making the effort is so important personally. I think it’s also imperative in our professional lives. A mentor once told me that the leader in the room is not the person who speaks the loudest or who has the most senior of titles, rather the leader in the room is the person who makes everyone feel comfortable, heard and part of the process. To that end, here are three simple things you can do to make an effort professionally and be the leader in the room:
- Set a check-in goal: I know this sounds crazy, but making the effort should absolutely be on your to-do list. If you don’t set a goal around this with a process you can follow, it will simply become an intention that you have instead of an action that you take. I have a colleague who is an absolute boss at this. Her check-in goal is to touch one person in her network a day. Now, I am not that ambitious. But I have set a professional check-in goal for one person in my network a week. I also made a list a few years ago of those to contact and of course, this list keeps growing.
- Practice “thinking of you”: The check-in touch point doesn’t have to be an elaborate effort, rather a simple text, email or phone call where you say “hey, I saw this (article, announcement, ad, speaker, what have you) and it made me think of you.” You’ll find that once you start doing this, it will begin to happen very organically. It also works the other way around. If you have a person in mind that you want to reach out to, you’ll start thinking of them and looking for articles and information that you think they’d like. It has this wonderful effect of getting you to look at the professional world through someone else’s eyes. I found that by thinking about people professionally, I expanded my frame of reference and actually benefited immensely.
- Offer to help: Again, this does not need to be over the top on the effort scale. You do not need to solve whatever professional problem the person you are reaching out to is facing. Simply offer help in the form of connection or to schedule a 15-minute phone call to discuss something. I like to reach out with the “saw-this-and-thought -of-you” mentioned above and follow it up with a “do you want to schedule a time to catch up?” Or “are you working on something specific?” maybe I know a resource who would be a good connection for you. Most of us have a hard time asking for help personally and professionally. It sets people at ease if you take interest in them and then offer to be a resource.
Regret comes from missed opportunities and failing to act. People rarely remember what you said. However, they do remember how you made them feel. Leaders make the effort and make everyone around them feel comfortable, heard and valued.
Making the effort makes a difference. It’s that simple. Give it a try personally and professionally.