When I was growing up, my mother would talk to everyone. She would make conversation or joke around with people in the line at the bank, grocery store, post office—while pumping gas, bidding at an auction, getting her hair done—absolutely everywhere. It embarrassed me in middle school but I understood by the time I finished high school. People love to talk about themselves and she was smart to ask questions and engage people.
The cashier at the grocery store, the next door neighbor, a company CFO or the parent beside you at PTO meetings might know the person or might be the person who will get you to where you need to go. Everyone you meet is important. Did we hear that for the first time from our parents or from a kindergarten teacher? We can learn something from, and share something with, everyone we encounter.
In the workplace, listen to people’s stories—celebrations and concerns. Each employee and customer is an individual, with a name, birthday and unique set of ideas, thoughts and opinions. Face-to-face conversations, interactive interviews and engaging, customized quizzes encourage and foster individuality and innovation. Each “team” is made up of individuals. In our quest to be consistent and work together, let’s not forget that everyone has something to offer. Harmony can only happen when people sing in different keys.
Networking happens inside and outside of work. Each person at your lunchroom and boardroom table represents a unique set of insights and experiences. I hope that you are cultivating a culture that enables your team to share their insights, experiences and ideas. When you allow colleagues and employees to define a strategy, it reflects the individuality of your company.