By JEFF HADEN
How you treat every person you meet matters. Some people realise that.
I was standing by myself between sessions at a major user conference in New York. (I’m really shy but through extensive practice have mastered the ancient social art of standing alone while seeming confident and secure.)
A very pleasant young lady strolled briskly over. “I’m Janice. You’re Jeff?” she asked.
I admitted I was.
“Great!” she said. “Do you have a second? Bill Lumbergh would like to meet you.” Bill (as Office Space fans realise, not his real name) was the chief executive officer of the company holding the conference.
“Cool,” I thought. I didn’t think Bill even knew I existed and was flattered he wanted to meet me.
Janice ushered me into a small conference room. Bill sat at the end of the table, shuffling and signing papers.
“Bill,” Janice said, “Here’s Jeff.”
“Hi Bill,” I said, walking forward to shake hands. Without looking up he waved his left hand towards a chair and said, “Be right with you.”
As I angled towards the chair, I glanced at Janice. She did the half-smile, gentle-shoulder-shrug non-verbal gesture that says, “I’m sorry, he’s really busy but don’t take it personally because deep down inside he’s a good guy.”
So I sat. Time passed. I considered the universe and my place within it.
Finally, he looked up. “We are glad you came to our humble little gathering,” he said.
“It’s my pleasure,” I said. “This is a great event. I’m sure you’re very proud.”
We made small talk for a few minutes (Did you know the scuba diving in Beqa Lagoon is awesome? I didn’t.) while I waited for him to get to the point.
He had that distracted air of someone who wants to be anywhere else, doing anything else. I realised there might not be a point.
To see if I was right I shifted forward in my seat and said, “Well, I’m sure you’re really busy. . .”
“Thanks for understanding,” he immediately said, half-standing to shake my hand. “Have a great time!”
Unfortunately, I didn’t have a great time, at least not as great as I had been. I wasn’t bothered by the fact he didn’t seem interested in talking to me; after all, who am I?
I was bothered by the fact he asked to talk to me. . .and then was distracted and disinterested and glad to get rid of me.
When Jeff met
“As the owner, you are your company” may be a cliché but it is no less true. After that I saw the conference—and his company and its products—in a different, less positive light.
Superficial on my part? Maybe, but I couldn’t help it.
Two days later I was cutting through Central Park on my way to meet a friend at his restaurant.
As I exited the park I stopped for a second to decide whether I had time to walk the rest of the way or should take a cab.
A voice behind me said, “Lost?”
As I turned I said, “I don’t think
so. . .” and stopped. Holy crap. Wolverine. Standing right in front of me.
He smiled, tilted his head, and raised his eyebrows in a non-verbal, “Need any help?”
I told him I was deciding whether to get a cab.
He asked where I was from (my southern accent gave me away), what business brought me to New York (my bag providing a clue), and whether my family was along for the trip (he noticed my wedding ring).
I didn’t even get a chance to squeeze in a, “Hey, Ioved you in. . .” compliment. He could not have been nicer.
Then he said, “Oh wait, I’m going to make you late. Where are you going?”
I told him.
“Oh, that place is great!” he said. “Let’s get you a taxi.” He took a couple steps out onto Central Park West, raised his hand (sans claws, disappointingly) and flagged a cab.
He opened the car door, shook my hand, said, “Great talking to you,” shut the door, and waved as I drove away.
In three minutes, Hugh Jackman turned me into a fan for life. But he didn’t sell me. He didn’t schmooze me.
He just gave me his full attention. He acted as if for those three minutes I was the most important person in the world—even though he didn’t know me and has certainly forgotten me.
(And if you don’t think Hugh is prone to random acts of kindness, check this out.)
Jackman: the real X-men
Just like a CEO or business owner, as an entertainer Jackman is his “company” and even though I’m sure it wasn’t his intention—I now see his “products” in a different, more positive light.
Superficial on my part? Maybe, but I can’t help it.
Granted you may not be Wolverine, but you are—if you choose to be—a star. To your vendors, your suppliers, to other employees, to people in your community who look up to you. . . you can be a star.
All you have to do is act as if every person you speak to is the most important person in the world and they will instinctively think better of you.
But don’t fake it. Don’t be false or manipulative. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Be genuine, be sincere, be yourself—just make sure you are the best version of yourself you can possibly be.
Shining the spotlight on the other person always reflects well on you.
Jeff Haden is an author of more than 50 non-fiction books and ghostwriter for innovators and business leaders. To engage with him, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more Image Matters articles, click here.