Hey Big Shot! Don’t Think You Have Impact? Think Again.

Paul Hebert Communication, Culture, Employee Communications, Employee Relations, Engagement and Satisfaction, Good HR, Paul Hebert, Performance, Recognition

Sometimes it’s the little things that matter.

You do something you think is a toss-out, nothing big, nothing important.  But ya know what?  Even the very, very little things matter… and can matter a lot!

Take a recent experience I had with someone I used to work with.

I recently met with a friend from the ghost-of-employment-past to talk about the incentive industry, the marketing landscape, business in general and to catch up on “old times.”

Now I need to set this up a bit…

In one of my past lives, I worked at one of the biggest incentive companies in the country, heck the world.  It had a storied history and a storied founder.  The founder built the company from nothing and was, at the time I worked with my friend, a 10 billion dollar plus company.  The founder was larger than life.

He was legend… wait for it… dary!.

Some were afraid to meet with him, some couldn’t wait.  Getting time with the founder was like, well, getting time with God.  His opinion of you and your performance could make or break your career.  There were long lists of both in the corporate mythology.

But, on to the story.

As my friend and I were chatting, she opened her portfolio to take notes and she said something like… “Do you know how long I’ve had this card?” pointing to a 3”x5” card with some writing on it.  “I’ve had this since 1991 (the year may be off.)”  With the reverence with which she said that, I half expected the card to have the number 42 written on it.  I asked why and she said…

“Mr X (the founder) attached this to an article on loyalty programs, and asked me what I thought and how I would address the issue the article discussed.  That was the first time I’d had any interaction with him.  I carry this card today because I thought it was so impressive that the person running a 10 billion plus corporation would take the time to ask for my input on what was becoming a big part of the business.  He didn’t ask the Executive VP, he didn’t ask the VP, he didn’t ask the Director – he asked me.” 

I said something like – “Most folks would probably not want to have to talk to Mr. X, so why did you think a little note on an article was worth keeping for 20+ years?”

She answered…

“It reminds me that no matter how important I think I am, if the head of a huge company can take the time to ask someone’s opinion, I should do the same.  This little card reminds me to stop and ask for input.  He didn’t think he knew everything and I know I don’t.  But it’s easy to get caught up in what you think is right and forget to ask for input.  Now each time I open this portfolio, I see that note and it reminds me to take a step back and seek advice, counsel and input.”

So, why this story?

Two reasons for this story…

First, too often we work quickly and robotically.  We forget that our actions have impact.  When we interact with people in our companies, that interaction leaves an impression.  Even the small interactions.  As an HR person – your thoughts, your little notes, your emails and voice mails carry more weight than you may imagine.  Recognition isn’t always a trophy and a trip.  Recognition can be as simple as a note with a comment on it.  Recognition is really less about what you think it is and a lot more about what they think it is.  Remember – many times the little things you do each day – your throw-aways – can be big things to someone else.

And second – asking for input is a great way to show that you value someone in the organization.  And that is the best recognition you can give.

Today – send a note and ask for input.

Sometime, in the distant future, someone might just pull out that scrap of paper and say… “Do you know how long I’ve had this note?”

I surely hope someone does that for me one day.