In late March I had the great privilege to facilitate a leadership immersion trip with Millie Allbon for The Hunger Project Australia and Human Kind Project to Malawi. Whilst many people think I must be over there building huts or similar popularised views of what westerners do in Africa, the leadership immersion programs are quite the opposite. We are there to learn leadership lessons from the poorest of the poor who have transformed their own lives through opportunity, rather than aid to defeat chronic hunger.
When on these programs one of the greatest opportunities that I get to experience is to witness the selfless yet strategic leadership of our Country Directors. Their ability to work in the field helping people shift their mindset from one of desperation to possibility is something that all change practitioners could learn from and aspire to.
On the Sunday night before the program commenced, we were up late with Rowlands the Country Director for Malawi preparing for our “trippers” who were arriving the next day. When Millie and I met up with Rowlands the next morning to meet his team, he was telling us about his family and the conversation that they had together when he returned home Sunday night. His wife Sphewe was trying to get the kids to bed, but Rowlands decided that even though it was late, as a family they should spend half an hour talking about their day, even if it meant a later bed time for his children who are aged 10 and 12 years of age.
Rowlands kicked off the conversation and said “Sphewe, my beautiful wife, tell me about your day…” and Sphewe replied “It was fine…”. The conversation was about to continue but his son interrupted. “Mum, that is not acceptable. You didn’t give any detail and Dad built you up, he described you as his beautiful wife and you just dropped the moment”.
Rowlands and his wife were a little puzzled as they had never heard this expression before. And when they all eventually retired to bed, he told us how they started to google the expression to see if it was some new expression their son had read up on – but they couldn’t find anything!
I loved this story for the conversation shift it created and I’ve thought about the wisdom of this incredible 10-year-old boy a lot since returning from Malawi. How often do we all potentially drop the moment with our loved ones or our work colleagues because we’re too busy or aren’t present with each other. When we aren’t present we are missing opportunities to elevate and connect with each other.
Influential leaders are the ones who elevate the moment. They have the insight to grasp the opportunity to engage, motivate and connect to the people they work with. As outlined in The Small BIG by Martin, Goldstein and Cialdini, it is often the small things that help leaders have a big impact on effecting people’s behaviour. From studying Cialdini’s work on persuasion, the small moment of acknowledging relationship when people say ‘thank you’ is an opportunity many miss. As Australians, how often do we say ‘no worries’ when in fact, a more apt response may be ‘I really value our working relationship, so it’s my pleasure’. Think about the impact of that small change, delivered in a way that is authentic, with your customers and work colleagues. It might feel strange at first, but the dividends long term are worth it.
Brene Brown also talks about small moments based on her research which shows that trust is built on small moments such as stopping to talk to someone when you can see they are upset, even if it means having to put down or stop what you are engrossed in. Or attending the funeral of a team member’s family as a show of your support. As Amy Cuddy, author of ‘Presence‘ cites, ‘trust is the conduit of influence’.
As you venture into your week, think about the areas where you can elevate others in the small moments. Often the small amount of effort it takes to be of service to others, is the difference between average and influential leadership.
Special thanks to Belinda Brosnan, Managing Director at HR Junction, for sharing this post with us!