There’s a part in the movie “We Were Soldiers” where Sgt. Maj. Plumley (played by Sam Elliott) passes one of his soldiers on the sidewalk. Sgt. Savage (played by Ryan Hurst) greets him with, “Good morning, Sergeant Major!” The response from Sgt. Maj. Plumley is, “How do you know what kind of @$& ^%*# day it is?”
I could watch that scene over and over again and laugh — not only because of Sgt. Maj. Plumley’s response, but also Sgt. Savage’s reaction. The younger officer didn’t know what to make of such a different answer to his rather ordinary greeting.
How often do you feel like Sgt. Major Plumley early in the morning? And how often would you like to respond as he did to anyone who tries to have even small conversations with you throughout the day?
People often respond to us the way we perceive them, and that’s especially true when we are in leadership or decision-making positions. For example, if you notice that conversations with people who report to you are only about surface-level topics like sports, the weather and general events that affect everyone, it might be because they are afraid of the “blowback” they may receive from you verbally or mentally if they bring up anything else.
I’m not suggesting that an employee should lay out all their personal or business concerns to someone they report to. Yet I do think that, as a leader, it’s important to make time to hear an employee’s thoughts if they do choose to open up. You may need to arrange a special time or day when you can give them your full attention. Listening, being present and responding to their concerns all go a long way toward helping people feel like they matter.
Here are a few tips I’ve received from business leaders or learned along the way as a business owner that may be helpful:
- Never have a closed-door when meeting with a member of the opposite sex, especially if it’s a solid door with no window.
- Always ask to take notes that can be shared with the person you’re meeting with, and with those who can help resolve their concerns or meet their needs.
- Always meet during business hours and on business property.
- If the problem relates to business, keep the conversation about business and don’t engage in social gossip.
We don’t accomplish anything in this life alone. Along the way, other people are there to help us — even if it’s with seemingly small things that often make a big difference. And when considering the events of history that have led to change, they have been accomplished by a group of people working together. Even the most influential person since time began cared enough to mentor and share His life with 12 followers.
Are you willing to consider being more open to others, and adjusting your own perception where necessary?
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