Thursday, October 28, 2010

Bump and Spill

It happens dozens of times each day.  It happens in-person, on the phone and online.  We "bump" into colleagues, employees, patients, clients, board members, volunteers, vendors and others.  Whether we handle ourselves well, or come across as cold and distant, we react in some way every single time during these "bumps." 

That's right.  Every.  Single.  Time.


As a leader in my organization, I sometimes fail to recognize the impact I have on others during these “bumps.”  My failure is an opportunity lost.  Not good. 

Now I am not talking about giving a quick nod of the head as I race off to my next "important" meeting and consider that to be a great touch point with a team member.  That simply does not do the job.  In his new book, Douglas Conant, CEO of Campbell's Soup Company, describes the power of effective touch points with employees:  

The secret, says Conant and his co-author Mette Norgaard (a renowned teacher of leaders), is to use interruptions and other incidental points of contact as a method to promote the company's values, purpose and agenda. The result? Higher employee engagement, improved growth and revenue, and better customer relationships.
Clearly he believes these opportunities offer much more for us.
I think of these moments in the same way I think about bumping into someone and my coffee spills over a bit.  When I "bump" into one of my customers, what spills out of me?


Do my customers know I am truly interested in them?  Do they understand how much I appreciate their hard work and dedication to the organization?  Do I convey to them, as Stephen Covey would suggest, their worth and potential?

Really?  How?

The quantity of time spent during these “bumps” does not necessarily equate with a high quality encounter.  In fact, they are often times just as busy (if not more so) than I am.

So, with perhaps only a few seconds to make an impact, what spills out of me?


Some of the most effective role models in my life have very similar attributes...they "spilled' some of their leadership style:
  • consistency in their approach and demeanor
  • strong listening skills
  • comfortable enough in their leadership to allow me to participate, and fail
  • incredibly positive with everyone

Imagine that tomorrow morning many of the people you “bump” into will be in a leadership development course and the facilitator will ask them to do the following:

Write down the name of the one leader in your life who had the most positive impact on your development.”

Wouldn’t it be terrific if they named you?

If we hold ourselves accountable in our leadership practice, we may “spill” just enough of ourselves out to make an impact on someone’s life.  An impact we may never fully appreciate.


Who are the influential leaders in your life?  Whose name would you write down on that sheet of paper when asked to name the very best?  When you get “bumped,” what spills out of you?

I’d love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


  1. Excellent points Jay. I'd add that this also has a good bit to do with personal branding. That "bump", the few seconds following it and the reaction speaks volumes about a person (leader or otherwise) and who they are at their core.

  2. Thanks for the feedback! The whole concept of personal branding for leaders is something I'd love to learn much more about.