I just started my second month in my role as CIO. My focus has been on trying to get to know the people at Temple and on starting to build relationships. As I have been meeting with individual colleagues, I am really trying to be fully present and focused on the person I am talking with at that moment. I am not always successful, because it is easy to get distracted. I catch my mind wandering which can include looking around to see what else is going on in the room, thinking about my response rather than listening, checking incoming texts and calls, or running through the long list of things I need to get done.
I have to remind myself often that being fully present for the person in front of me is an unusual and impactful gift that will be remembered because it is so rarely given. I know because I remember when I have been given that gift.
Years ago, when I was in my weekend MBA program, I was given the assignment to interview a senior leader in my organization to find out about their leadership journey. I chose someone whom I had never met. He had transitioned to academia after a long and successful career in private industry and was well liked by those who worked closely with him. I don’t remember any of his specific stories, although they did involve worldwide impact with his medical research. What I do remember is how I felt after talking with him.
For a full sixty minutes, he was completely focused on me. He answered my questions and he asked me about myself, my background, my role in the organization and what I wanted to accomplish. He gave insights from his own experience that might be of value to me in accomplishing my goals. He challenged and encouraged me. I felt valued and came away from that interview with a desire to be more like him as a leader. Even now, as I am writing this, I am filled with deep gratitude and emotion.
I am sure that leader does not know the impact he had on me. It was lasting, in part, because it was reinforced every time I encountered him, which I did with regularity. When I ran into him in the cafeteria or at a meeting, he displayed the same genuine interest and focus on me that I glimpsed the first time we met.
So, as I have been meeting all of the amazing people at Temple and in Philadelphia, I try to emulate that leader and be fully present and focused on the person who I am talking with. They can feel whether you are fully present and focused on them and it matters deeply. When I have received this gift of focused attention, I feel valued, energized, and motivated. When I am able to give the gift of being fully present, I get positive energy, great information, and good will; all which are invaluable to me as a leader.
My challenge to you this week is to be intentional about being fully present when you are interacting with your colleagues, customers, and family. Notice what happens when you are more present.